Carmen Snow, of Edmond, said she was “overjoyed” to learn that the new pontiff for the Roman Catholic Church shares her Latin American heritage.
“This is incredible news. He is one of us,” Snow, a native of Bolivia, said Wednesday.
The election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, of Buenos Aires, Argentina, as the new leader of 1.2 billion Catholics came as a pleasant surprise, several Oklahoma Catholic leaders said. However, they said the historic choice made sense for many reasons, particularly the spread of Catholicism in Latin America, Africa and Asia.
“The cardinals have delivered a wonderful surprise to the world by choosing a pope from Latin America, a part of the world where the Catholic Church is strong and committed to the New Evangelization,” the Most Rev. Paul S. Coakley, archbishop of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, said Wednesday.
Pedro A. Moreno Garcia, the archdiocese's director of Hispanic Ministry, said Catholics all over the world were rejoicing over the election of the new pope, and added many Latinos are excited to have a pontiff who shares their culture.
“The Latino community — we're going to party,” Garcia said.
“It will be just like the Germans celebrated when Cardinal Ratzinger became pope (Benedict) and how the Polish celebrated when John Paul (II) became pope, but we can't lose sight of the fact that he is the pope for everyone.”
Meanwhile, Rita Holder, of Oklahoma City, experienced the historic moment at St. Peter's Square firsthand Wednesday.
In a telephone interview, Holder said she and her family are in Rome because her granddaughter's school choir from Dallas is performing there. She said she and her family missed seeing the white smoke coming out of the Sistine Chapel chimney indicating that a pope had been elected.
However, she said the family took a taxi to St. Peter's Square in Vatican City and joined the huge crowd gathered there to wait for the new pope's first greeting to the world.
“It was fantastic,” she said.
“It was wonderful to see the pope come out. We're just so happy to have a pope.”