Latin Americans hail Francis as man to lead troubled Church

Wed Mar 13, 2013 6:52pm EDT
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By Alexandra Ulmer

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Across Latin America, the faithful rejoiced that the new Pope Francis was one of them.

Even though some commentators said he had a reputation as being as conservative and inflexible as his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, Latin Catholics celebrated that cardinals had, in Francis' own words, gone "to the end of the world" to find him.

"A Latino is more open to others, while a European is more closed. A change like this, with a Latin American, will be very important for us Latin Americans ... (he will be) more open, more honest," said 75-year-old Ana Solis, a retired hospital worker, outside Santiago's Metropolitan Cathedral in Chile.

"I'm happy because another European pope would be like eating the same bread every day," Martin Rodriguez, a 49-year-old Mexico City cab driver, said of Argentina's Francis, the first non-European pontiff in nearly 1,300 years.

The cardinals had faced a tough task in the conclave in finding a leader capable of overcoming crises caused by priestly child abuse and a leak of secret papal documents that uncovered corruption and rivalry inside the Church government.

The new pope will take up a burden that Benedict declared in February was beyond his physical capabilities.

The reaction from Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny, who two years ago accused the Vatican of hampering an inquiry into child sex abuse by Irish priests, summed up the thoughts of many.

"We pray that he will have the strength, the good health and the spiritual guidance needed to lead the Catholic Church in the many challenges it faces," Kenny said.   Continued...

Faithful wave Argentina's flag after white smoke rose from the chimney above the Sistine Chapel, indicating a new pope has been elected at the Vatican, March 13, 2013. REUTERS/Giampiero Sposito