SPOKANE, Wash – It's a joyous day for the Catholic Church, evidenced by the massive crowd in St. Peter's Square and the ringing of bells to mark the announcement that Pope Francis I was chosen by the conclave.
In Spokane, bells runs atop local Catholic Churches – including 85 feet up in the tower of St. Aloysius on the Gonzaga University campus. It just so happens, an annual mass held during Spring Break was underway inside the church, where the faithful learned of the new Pope's election.
Father Richard Case remembers being a junior in high school when Pope John XXIII was elected, and he's several since.
"We were in a meeting, and someone said, ‘There's the white smoke!'" he said. "It's a real balancing act to pick somebody that has enough experience they can deal with the responsibilities of being Pope, but also picking somebody that has enough energy left to give the kind of leadership we need."
Bishop Blase Cupich of the Catholic Diocese of Spokane told KHQ there are a few things that stand out about the selection of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina; he's the first non-European to be chosen, he's the first Jesuit to be chosen, and he's the first to pick the name Francis.
"I've never met the new Pope, but his reputation is very strong as an advocate for the poor, and who has also lead a major Arch Diocese," Bishop Cupich said.
While he may not have been an obvious choice going in to the conclave, Bishop Cupich said he got a message from a friend in Rome saying to keep an eye on Bergoglio. The Bishop said that was likely because of his skill set, and the fact he speaks a number of languages, including Spanish, Italian, German, English and possibly French.
"I do think it's interesting the Pope asked people to join him in a prayer – three prayers – Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be. Any school age child in the Catholic Church knows those prayers, and in a way he was being very inclusive to join him in his prayer and his ministry," Bishop Cupich added.
Interestingly, Cardinal Bergoglio submitted his resignation as Arch Bishop of Buenos Aires last year, as church law requires that be done at age 75, and was, in many ways, on his way out.
But now, at the age of 76, he's become the new leader of the Catholic Church around the world.