Local Catholics react to new pope

Posted at 7:37 PM, Mar 13, 2013
and last updated 2013-03-14 00:58:35-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Latinos across the globe and here in Utah are both surprised and excited about the new pope.

Pope Francis is known as a man of the people in Argentina. He embraced the middle class lifestyle, and that's part of the reason why Utah Latinos are so excited. They feel that one of their own is now in charge at the Vatican.

"We're so happy, I feel like it's going to be a big change," Alfredo Garey said.

Garey is a parishioner at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Salt Lake City.

On Wednesday night, the church celebrated a Spanish-speaking mass.  Cardinal Jorge Begoglio, now Pope Francis, speaks both Spanish and Italian. He's the son of Italian immigrants and grew up in a middle class family.

"They (Latinos) will be able to identify with him, this whole idea of having a pope that knows and shares with them culture and language, even that he's a son of immigrants, that'll be a boost for them," said Father Eleazar Silva of the Salt Lake City Diocese.

In Utah, there are roughly 150,000 Catholics. About 80 percent are Latino. Church leaders say it's significant the pope chose "Francis" for his name.

"Remember, St. Francis heard from God. He said ‘Francis, go and rebuild my church," parishioner Moises Ruiz said.

"It enables us to see in a beautiful way the vision and the spirituality we all have to look forward to," said Monsignor Joseph Mayo of the Salt Lake Diocese.

As a cardinal in Argentina, Begoglio didn't take advantage of the luxuries other cardinals enjoyed. He didn't live in the church mansion or ride in limousines.  He often took the bus to work.

The Salt Lake Diocese is already planning special masses to honor the new holy father.

"I think we'll see a livened personality," Mayo said.

Utah Catholics hope Pope Francis will live up to his name and rebuild a church once rocked by child abuse scandals.

"To have more faith in the catholic church,” Ruiz said. “Because of the scandals, I think people want to get away from the church and criticizing the church. We shouldn't do that."

Pope Francis has been outspoken against Argentina’s president over gay marriage and free contraceptives. Salt Lake church leaders don't expect his position to change, but they do feel this pope is open to dialogue.