CINCINNATI - While Tri-State Catholics and church leaders watched the celebration of a new pope on TV Wednesday, two local priests had floor seats for the big event.
Rev. Dan Vogelpohl, from Blessed Sacrament Church in Fort Mitchell, and Rev. Ryan Ruiz, a Cincinnati priest studying in Rome, witnessed the celebration in St. Peter’s Square and spoke with 9 On Your Side by phone.
Vogelpohl said the experience was overwhelming.
"It was shortly after 7 p.m. and all of a sudden the smoke appeared and at first you couldn’t tell what color it was until it really got going, before we could tell it was white smoke, and the crowd just cheered," Vogelpohl said.
See photos from St. Peter's Square at http://www.wcpo.com/gallery/news/news_photo_gallery/Jorge-Maria-Bergoglio-named-new-pope
"It was deafening and, as they cheered, the crowd sort of surged up toward St. Peter's [Square] because that's where the new pope would eventually make his appearance."
Vogelpohl said there was great cheering when it was announced that the new pope had taken the name of Francis.
"There's never been a Pope Francis to my knowledge and he's probably the most beloved saint here in Italy. That was really exciting for the Italians in the crowd,” he said. "We then had to wait for the pope himself to make an appearance and the crowd began a rhythmic cheering of ‘Francesco, Francesco.’ You almost felt like you were at a sporting event. It was very respectful."
Vogelpohl said the experience made him feel a strong connection with his faith and his new pope.
Ruiz said he was standing by an Argentinian classmate when the newly-elected pope, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina, walked onto the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica. He said shock and joy radiated from his classmate’s face.
Ruiz said his classmate referred to Pope Francis as a man of humility and simplicity, something that came through when the pope spoke.
“It certainly was a tremendous experience, just being in the presence of so many people," Ruiz said. "There were lots of people there, lots of anticipation. Pope Francis really captured the crowd’s heart with his humility, sincerity, and just really put the church out there at its best.”
Reaction From Home
Back in the Tri-State, members of the area’s Latin American community were elated to see the first Latin American pope, a local pastor said.
Rev. Louis Gasparini, director of Hispanic Ministry for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, says he expects the predominantly Hispanic congregation at St. Charles Chapel in Carthage will be overjoyed when they come to Mass.
"The church in this continent, including the United States, it's a different type of church. It's a church that is used for internationality,” Gasparini said. “We have all kinds of cultures and languages and so the flavor is a community. It’s an international, multi-cultural community, which a church is meant to be."
At St. Peter in Chains Cathedral, Meghan Berneking told 9 On Your Side reporter Bryce Anslinger she liked what she had seen and heard of the new pope.
"Obviously it’s nice to have someone from the Western Hemisphere, and I think he seemed very humble and like someone who is going to take a good leadership role, but in a very humble way,” Berneking said.
There are more than 560,000 Catholics in the Tri-State. That includes more than 479,000 baptized Catholics in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, which encompasses 214 parishes in 19 counties, and more than 92,000 baptized Catholics in the Diocese of Covington which encompasses 47 parishes in 14 counties.
9 On Your Side reporter Amy Wadas visited St. Francis DeSales Church, where the bells were ringing in excitement.
“This is obviously an historic event for me,” said Brother Mike Murphy. “This is the second time that I remember a pope being elected, so it's really exciting."
Murphy said he wants a pope who is strong and has the ability to draw more people to the church. Sydney Prochazka said she hopes the new pope will help people who are suffering.
"I'm looking for a pope who is sensitive to the needs of the people and is able to respond to that - not only through doctrine and laws and rules and regulations - but be responsive to people who are suffering the most," Prochazka said.
Ruiz said the new pope will be just what Murphy and Prochaka are looking for - a champion of the poor and a pastor to all.
“His choice of name is very telling. Pope Francis is a Jesuit. It evokes that idea of bringing the gospel to all parts of the world. It also evokes St. Francis of Assisi,” Ruiz said.
Dennis M. Schnurr, Archbishop of Cincinnati, issued this statement:
“We have a Pope! With Catholics and all people of good will I greet with joy the news that the Chair of Peter is no longer vacant. Inspired by the Holy Spirit and supported by the prayers of the faithful, the cardinal electors have chosen the right man to lead the church as Chief Shepherd at this point in history. Like St. Peter and all of his successors, the new Holy Father faces