NPR Story
2:59 pm
Thu March 14, 2013

Election Of Pope Francis Draws Excitement And Praise In Southern California

The Vatican has its white smoke. Los Angeles has bells that rang out at The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels downtown. Archbishop Jose Gomez usually doesn't attend midday Mass, but yesterday he had a very important announcement to make.

About 70-percent of LA's Catholics are Latino, and at yesterday's service Gomez got his biggest applause when he spoke in Spanish. LA's 4.2 million Catholics will now be led by an archbishop from Mexico and a pope from Argentina.

"This is the first time a pope has come from American continent. This shows importance of us to the universal church. And under Pope Francis, issues more important to the 'Global South' like poverty — are likely to get greater attention, said Father Allan Deck, a professor of theology at Loyola Marymount University.

"I think it was inevitable we¹d have a non-European pope someday, and now we do. The seeds of what were planted 500 years ago by missionaries has reached point now of producing leadership at highest levels of the church."

Orange County is often called the fastest growing diocese in the country. Masses are held in nine different languages including Spanish, Polish, Latin, Korean, and Vietnamese.

Bishop of Orange Kevin Vann downloaded an app to alert him when the white smoke started billowing. "I signed up for this link called Pope Alarm."

Vann was at a meeting to discuss the future of the new Christ Cathedral when his Pope Alarm sounded and everyone started clapping.

"Folks were excited. It¹s a new beginning for the universal church and a new beginning for folks here in Orange so there was a sense of unity with all that."

Vann says there's a great sense of joy in Orange County having a pope come from the "global south," which is now home to most of the world¹s Catholics.

"I think it will be a great sense of identification with so many folks in Latin America and Mexico and those who speak who Spanish. Our diocese is 30 percent Hispanic as well. So I think it¹s an affirmation of their culture that they bring to all of us."

Bishop Vann will lead a Mass in honor of the new pope on Saturday.

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