Cardinal Egan Says This Is ‘The Latin American Moment’

Catholic clergy and members of the community react to Argentine Jorge Mario Bergoglio taking leadership of the Catholic Church as Pope Francis.

He is the first Pope from the Western Hemisphere, the first Latin American, the first Jesuit and the first to choose the name Francis as his Papal moniker.

In New York, Edward Cardinal Egan, the Archbishop Emeritus of New York, said he “couldn’t be more delighted” with the selection of Bergoglio as the new pope. He said he wasn't surprised by the relatively quick decision — and that although he was pleased by the selection, he was also surprised: he thought Bergoglio wouldn't be considered a candidate because of his age (76).

The two became cardinals together in 2001. Cardinal Egan described him as someone with "extraordinary experience running things"

“He’s exactly the kind of man I think we need right now,” Egan said. “I do think this is the Latin American moment in history.”

As archbishop, he said “one-third of what I was doing” was related to the Latin American community.

(To hear a full interview with Cardinal Egan, listen to the audio above)

Meanwhile, parishioners cheered at the news outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan when the new Pope was announced.

A group of Argentine tourists outside the cathedral cheered and began chanting “Argentina!” after the announcement was made.

(To hear WNYC's Colby Hamilton's report - click the audio directly above)

Cardinal Timothy Dolan is in Rome where he helped select Pope Francis so the duties of announcing the news to the congregation at St. Patrick's fell to the church's rector, Monsignor Robert Ritchie, who said the selection was a harbinger of change.

"I think in choosing someone who is a Jesuit, and from outside of Europe," he said, "I think that's an indication of openness to change, openness to looking radically at where we are and where we have to be."

In Jersey City, New Jersey, Columbian Alejandro Ussa said he was pleasantly surprised by the choice of an Argentinian.

"It was a surprise for me actually," he said. "I'm so happy for our South American community."

Paige Devers, raised Catholic in South Jersey, said she thinks a Latin American pope makes sense.

"It definitely will bring a different perspective," she said.

The archbishop of Buenos Aires reportedly got the second-most votes after Joseph Ratzinger in the 2005 papal election, and he has long specialized in the kind of pastoral work that some say is an essential skill for the next pope.

A winner must receive 77 votes, or two-thirds of the 115, to be named pope.

Bergoglio has shown a keen political sensibility as well as the kind of self-effacing humility that fellow cardinals value highly.

The new pope is known for modernizing an Argentine church that had been among the most conservative in Latin America.

Near the cathedral in Argentina's capital, Martha Ruiz burst into tears of emotion at news that her cardinal Mario Bergoglio has been named pope. She says the news "is incredible."

Tens of thousands of people who braved cold rain to watch the smokestack atop the Sistine Chapel jumped in joy when white smoke poured out, many shouting "Habemus Papam!" or "We have a pope!" — as the bells of St. Peter's Basilica and churches across Rome tolled, signaling a pontiff had been chosen.