New Era: First Latin American Pope Takes Helm

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VATICAN CITY -- For the first time in its history, a pope from Latin America will lead the Catholic Church. The election of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio -- now Pope Francis -- electrified the faithful at Vatican City and has reverberated around the world.

The new pontiff is the first modern non-European pope, the first from the Jesuit order, and the first pope to take the name of Francis, a name synonymous with simplicity and humility.

"The most surprising thing to me was he was also a great friend of evangelicals," evangelist Luis Palau, who has met the new pope several times, told CBN News. "He has tremendous respect for evangelicals. He was a friend."

"I was so impressed that he really does know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior," Palau added. "And I say that carefully because the way he prayed is the prayer of a child of God speaking to his Heavenly Father."

On Wednesday, the second day of the conclave, the election had the world waiting and watching.

Finally, after two days, white smoke rose from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel Wednesday. An hour later, Pope Francis appeared on the balcony over St. Peter's Square to greet a cheering crowd.

Tens of thousands of gathered to celebrate as the white smoke went up and the bells of St. Peter's Basilica chimed.

One of his first acts as pope was a request that the people pray silently prayer for him.

"He warmed up very quickly and the great impression is that he is a man of prayer," Father Joseph Parola, a Jesuit from Houston, Texas, said.

Many Latinos in the crowd said get ready for a Latin American pope.

"As I heard Pope Fransisco give his final blessing and his final goodbye, you could sense a very South American flavor that's unique," Felix Barbosa, from Ecuador, said.

"You need to be Latin to understand what you feel," Victor Torez, from Mexico. said. "This is like people from your blood. He understands. You can trust me, this gentleman is going to do so well."

Father Martin of Argentina said, "The close pope we had felt today, it's a signal of what we are going to experience in these days -- a friend of the people."

Now Pope Francis faces the daunting task of leading the Catholic Church.

Kathyrn Lopez, with the National Review, said many Catholics are re-discovering the Great Commission.

"A critical aspect of that is this mandate we have to share the Gospel, not just live the Gospel but share the Gospel," Lopez told CBN News. "And evangelicals do that a lot better than Catholics do."

"So that's a huge part of it, knowing your faith and living your faith, and sharing your faith for goodness sakes," she continued. "Because if you believe it's true, why wouldn't you share it?"

Many Catholics now hope and pray Pope Francis will help spread the Good News of Jesus to the world.

Is there common ground for Catholics and Evangelicals to work together? Ordained minister and professor at Regent University Dr. Corne Bekker, has more following this report on Christian World News, March 15.

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