Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina was elected Wednesday as leader of the Roman Catholic Church. He chose the name Francis, after Saint Francis Assisi. He's the first Jesuit pope and the first pope from Latin America.
"I'm so happy. It's incredible for me to see it, for the first time, a Hispanic pope," says Pilar Tirado, the Hispanic ministry pastoral assistant at Nativity Catholic Church in Evansville. Tirado is a native of Venezuela. "For us, it's a big hope that the church is going to be everyday more and more stronger, you know, all over the world."
Nearly half of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics live in Latin America. Until Wednesday, none had ever been elected to lead the church.
"It shows the church has hope in Latin America," says Julian Cardona, a seminary student native to Columbia.
"Now with the election of the Pope Francis -- saying the church is not just European or from Africa -- so it really considers the whole world, so that's a new exciting time for us," Juan Guido, a seminary student native to Mexico. "It's really about the universality of the church."
Pope Francis is known as a humble, simple man who lived with few luxuries or comforts in Argentina. "Being he's simple man -- he's really a follower of Jesus," says Tirado. I think that's what we as a Catholic need -- somebody who lives as Christ did."
Pope Francis will inherit a variety of struggles within the church from his predecessor, Benedict XVI. As he addressed Catholic faithful for the first time as pope he asked for their prayers -- sign of humility.
"That was so beautiful that he realized himself that he needs a lot of prayer in order to be ready to guide us and it was so humble for him to bow his head during the time he asked for us to pray for him," says Tirado.
The challenging road ahead remains uncertain for the Catholic Church, but many see his election as an enormous gesture of hope.