NEW ORLEANS -- Inside St. Louis Cathedral Wednesday night, dozens cheered as Archbishop Gregory Aymond proclaimed the election of a new pope.
“It was impressive, just a moment in history I'll never forget,” said Heather Macias.
“Just ecstatic, excited,” said Waco, Texas resident Fernando Villareal. “I think it's something that our church needs right now.
During Mass, Aymond asked Catholics to pray for Pope Francis as he begins a new era of leadership in a church faced with challenges.
“We know what has happened with some of the scandals that have taken place in the past decade, especially with the sex abuse, and so he will have to do some healing of wounds in terms of that and bring back some credibility,” Aymond said.
Those who had the chance to meet Pope Francis have no doubt the new pontiff is up to the task. Dr. Nicolas Bazan is a native Argentine who lives in New Orleans.
“Many of us have had the opportunity one way or the other to have contact with him. he's a very very special person, very accessible person,” Bazan said.
Pope Francis, formerly Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, hails from Argentina and is the first pontiff from the Americas. Argentinian Americans believe it's a powerful symbol of the direction in which the church is moving.
“Like you won the lottery. It was like your number just got called,” said Karina Gentinetta. “It's great to have a voice within that church that is such an integral part of our culture.”
Pope Francis is known to be a man of the people, taking public transportation and living in a small apartment.
And now he's seen as a potential rebuilder and uniter of the Catholic Church.
“We have a new shepherd who will teach us the ways of Christ,” Aymond said.