Austin Catholics react to election of Pope Francis
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Just after 1 p.m. Wednesday, the bells at Saint Mary Cathedral let anyone within earshot of Downtown Austin know a new pope has been selected.
It was great news for Geri Telepak, who said she’s glad to see the first pope with roots to South America.
"In a way, he's our regional pope. We are America," Telepak said.
Technology has come a long way, even since the election of Pope Benedict XVI. Within minutes, Telepak was online learning about the new leader of her church.
Pope Francis is the first Jesuit to take the Papacy. He’s a lifelong teacher with a track record of living like a commoner.
"His simplicity and humility, I think, is really what the Holy Spirit said the church needed now," Telepak said.
About a hundred heeded the call of the bells at Sacred Heart Catholic Church. The East Austin church holds mass each Wednesday at 6 p.m., but it's very rare that you ever get to mention the name of a new pope just hours after his election.
It's a nomination that took Bishop Joe Vasquez with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Austin by surprise. A Latino himself, the Bishop is grateful to have a pope who understands the needs of Catholics across North and South America.
"Forty percent of Catholics throughout the world are of Hispanic or Latino background. That may have been a factor," Vasquez said.
It’s a factor that Vasquez says may energize Catholics across Central Texas, which is home to more than a 500,000 Catholics with Latino or Hispanic backgrounds.