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Royal Oak — Metro Detroit Catholics on Wednesday celebrated the election of a new pope — the first Jesuit, and the first from the Americas.

As Argentina’s Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, 76, was introduced as Pope Francis, a handful of parishioners and staff at the Shrine of the Little Flower in Royal Oak watched as the new pontiff gave his first blessing.

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“It’s fantastic we have a new leader in our church,” said the Rev. Joe Lang. “I am so excited he is from Latin America. There’s a growing Catholic population throughout Latin America. Though he represents all of us, Latin Americans are also growing in (number) in America. It’s significant that they have someone representing them.”


Andrea Safranski, 36, of Royal Oak, chief financial officer of the parish, said she was excited about the church’s new leader. Safranski said she attended a papal Mass led by retired Pope Benedict XVI while in Rome for her honeymoon in September.

She said she’s pleased by the selection of a pope from South America.

“He’ll be a good representative for all the Catholics of the world,” Safranski said. “They say he is a man of the people and intellectual. I’m sure he’ll be wonderful for the church.”

Barbara Cullen, 84, of Royal Oak, a docent at the church on Wednesday, heard about the election of a new pope about 3 p.m. and joined other faithful there to watch the introduction on television.

“He was one of my choices,” Cullen said. “His archdiocese has one of the largest numbers of Catholics in South America. That area is growing in population of Catholics, so we need to recognize that. He seems to be a holy man and certainly a leader.”

She described it as a joyous day for the church.

Cullen said Pope Francis “should follow Benedict’s course — the way the church should be, according to the Bible, the precepts of the church.”

A special Vespers service to mark the election of Pope Francis is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. today in the chapel of Sacred Heart Major Seminary, 2701 Chicago Blvd., in Detroit.

Detroit Catholic Archbishop Allen Vigneron will oversee the service and conduct a news conference afterward.

Local Catholics such as David Thiesen, who has been following the development from the Vatican said: “I’m excited that it happened so quickly.”


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