Florida Keys News
Thursday, March 14, 2013
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Locals react to new pope

Thousands waved flags and sang songs outside the Sistine Chapel Wednesday night in Vatican City as white smoke puffed from a chimney, which revealed a new pope was elected. In a matter of hours, Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, the first non-European, would take the helm.

Bergoglio, 76, takes over for Benedict XVI, who recently became the first pope in nearly 600 years to resign.

Up and down the Keys, social media sites were littered with talk about the secret election.

In the small St. Peter Catholic Church of Big Pine Key, that meant uncorking a few glasses of pinot noir and celebrating.

"We weren't expecting white smoke," said the church's pastor, the Rev. Tony Mullane. "The staff and I are having a glass of wine and celebrating."

Mullane and his few weekday afternoon employees had been glued to CNN waiting for any type of announcement.

When Bergoglio emerged onto the balcony at St. Peter's Basilica, Mullane said he was thrilled.

"He's a man of the people," he said. "A common man who takes public transportation."

Mullane compared Bergoglio to a Washington, D.C., outsider elected to unify a country.

For the Rev. John Baker, pastor of The Basilica of St. Mary Star of the Sea in Key West, the news was long awaited.

"His purpose is to serve us in ways we cannot serve ourselves," Baker said.

Baker said his church prays through the conclave process, when the cardinals of the Catholic Church go into sequester to elect a leader among them.

Deacon John Kirk of San Pablo Catholic Church in Marathon said it is the time to keep praying for the new pope to guide the church successfully.

"It's a difficult task to uphold the laws of the church founded by Jesus Christ himself," Kirk said.

Kirk expects about 1,500 people to come through Mass services this weekend to pray for Bergoglio.

jgosh@keysnews.com

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