White smoke poured from the Sistine Chapel chimney in St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday afternoon, signaling a new pope had been elected.
After two days of voting, the papal conclave of cardinals at the Vatican City elected Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina as Pope Benedict XVI’s successor. Bergoglio, 76, took the name Pope Francis.
Father William Langlois, of St. Patrick’s and St. Anthony’s Parish in Grand Haven, said he was happy to hear the news, although he thought it would have taken longer for the cardinals to make their selection.
“I’m just hoping he will be guided by the Holy Spirit,” Langlois said.
Pope Benedict XVI announced his retirement last month, the first pontiff in 600 years to step down. That came as a shock to Father Dan DePew of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Spring Lake, who said Benedict XVI was a "traditionalist."
As the process of electing a new pope began, 115 cardinals gathered and voted in secrecy until one man received two-thirds of the vote.
DePew said the cardinals don’t look for someone who is a carbon copy of previous popes, but they do look for someone who is a holy man, articulates faith well and is a teacher of sorts.
“They each have their own gifts,” DePew said.
Once the cardinals have elected their man, DePew said the pope-elect is asked two questions: Do you want to be pope? What name do you want to go by?
Although the Vatican is thousands of miles away, the pope's influence touches local Catholic parishes from how their schools are run to marriage and structure.
“Everything we as Catholics believe begins at the Vatican,” DePew said.
Spring Lake resident Alissa Mullally said she listened to the announcement on the radio on her way to pick up her daughter from St. Mary’s Catholic School. Mullally, who will become confirmed in the Catholic faith on Easter Sunday, said it’s an exciting time to enter the religion.
As Pope Francis begins to fulfill his role, Mullally hopes he can continue honoring what the Catholic faith stands for — "keeping the church united and living up to what God wants for us,” she said.
Grand Haven resident Michael Engel said it’s exciting to have a Latin American pope. Engel hopes the new pontiff will follow the pro-active footsteps of Pope John Paul II.
“I hope they stick to the doctrine,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.