WASHINGTON (CBSDC) — Catholics around the world and the D.C. area watched in anticipation Wednesday as white smoke poured out from the chimney at the Sistine Chapel, signaling the election of a new pope.
When the church bells around St. Peter’s Square in Rome started ringing, so did the bells at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Northeast D.C.
People gathered there waited and watched in silence on a TV in the cafeteria until the new pope, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, was announced. They cheered when Pope Francis was introduced and said it was surprising to have the first non-European pope in more than a millennium.
But Catholic University President John Garvey said the election of a pope from outside Europe is a reflection of the current make-up of the church.
“One-hundred years ago, the majority of the world’s Catholics were European,” Garvey said. “Today, two-thirds of the world’s Catholics are from Latin America and Africa. And this is a pope who represents that huge portion of the Catholic Church.”
Georgetown University hosted a celebratory mass at Dahlgren Chapel on Wednesday night for the selection of Pope Francis. The Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Northwest D.C. also hosted a Mass of Thanksgiving on Wednesday.
Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, is one of 11 U.S. cardinals who took part in the conclave to elect a successor to the Chair of Saint Peter. But Wuerl said Francis is more than just the next in line.
“Pope Francis is more than just the successor to Benedict XVI; he is the successor to all those who came before him in an unbroken line going all the way back to Peter,” Wuerl said in a statement. “In Pope Francis, we recognize the successor to Peter and the visible sign of the unity of the Church spread throughout the whole world. He is the touchstone for the mission, message and tradition of the Church.”
PHOTO GALLERY: Images From the Naming of Pope Francis
Garvey also released a statement, on behalf of Catholic University, about the election of the first pope from the Americas:
“The Catholic University of America is proud to congratulate Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio on his election as Pope. The Holy See and the University, which was founded in 1887 by the U.S. Catholic bishops under a papal charter issued by Pope Leo XIII, share a unique relationship. As the national University of the Catholic Church in the United States, we have been blessed to host two papal visits: one by Pope John Paul II in 1979 and one by Pope Benedict XVI in 2008. We are excited to move forward under the leadership of Pope Francis I and we pray that the Catholic Church will grow under his guidance in wisdom and Christ’s grace. And we hope to welcome him to our campus some day.”
WNEW’s Kevin Rincon contributed to this report. Follow him on Twitter.
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