Argentines rush to churches, weep as countryman elected pope

Wed Mar 13, 2013 9:36pm EDT
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By Nicolás Misculin and Juliana Castilla

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Some crying with joy, others praying, Argentines poured into churches on Wednesday to celebrate the surprise election of one of their own as Latin America's first pope, with many hoping he will bring his well-known common touch to the Vatican.

Churchgoers in this mainly Roman Catholic country said they want former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio - a 76-year-old Jesuit who has chosen the name Pope Francis - to bolster the Church after a series of scandals.

Bergoglio won praise over the years for opting to travel to work by bus and live in a simple Buenos Aires apartment - near the stadium of his favorite soccer club, San Lorenzo - rather than the sumptuous archbishop's residence.

"I hope he changes all the luxury that exists in the Vatican, that he steers the church in a more humble direction, something closer to the gospel," said Jorge Andres Lobato, a 73-year-old retired state prosecutor.

"This is a blessing for Argentina," one woman shouted in the streets of central Buenos Aires.

President Cristina Fernandez, who has had a distant relationship with Bergoglio during her six years in power, congratulated him on Wednesday.

"By opting for the name Francis, after St. Francis of Assisi, he is opting for the poor, so that humanity may be united in equality," the leftist president said in a speech.

Bergoglio has criticized Argentine politicians for failing to do more to fight poverty in a country in the grip of high inflation and with a long history of economic instability.   Continued...

Roman Catholics celebrate the election of Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio as the new Pope, at the Metropolitan Cathedral in Buenos Aires, March 13, 2013. REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian