White smoke rose above the Sistine Chapel Wednesday afternoon to signal the election of the 266th pope. Cheers filled the air as the bells of St. Peter’s Basilica tolled to confirm the new pontiff, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina.
Bergoglio chose the name Francis I to lead the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics. He becomes the first pope ever chosen from the Americas. At 76, Pope Francis I replaces the now retired Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
“I would like to thank you for your embrace,” the pope said. “My brother cardinals have chosen one who is from far away, but here I am.”
The Most Rev. Paul S. Coakley, archbishop of Oklahoma City, said the election of Pope Francis I was a moment of great joy. Francis I asked for prayers and blessings to guide him on his journey.
The more than 115,000 Catholics in the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City have been praying for the cardinal electors’ choice of the Bishop of Rome and Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church, Coakley said.
“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,” Coakley said.
There was worldwide speculation about who the next pope would be, demonstrating the church is universal in preaching the Gospel to all nations, Coakley said.
“Today’s election of Pope Francis I reminds us that the Church is also one. Christ is the source of our unity — and the pope, as Vicar of Christ, is a visible sign of that unity,” Coakley said. “With the Catholic faithful from around the world, we rejoice to look to Pope Francis I as our Holy Father, the Vicar of Christ on earth.”
Sacred Heart Catholic Gifts owner Karen Morton said she is proud that Francis I is the first pope from a non-European country.
“I called my grandson because he took ‘Francis’ as his confirmation name. He was really proud of Pope Francis,” said Morton, who worships at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church.
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