White smoke told the world that a new pope had been chosen Wednesday and soon after more than a billion Roman Catholics were introduced to their new leader, 76-year-old Jorge Mario Bergoglio, a Jesuit Cardinal from Argentina. Bergoglio will go by the name of Francis.
Catholics in the Caldwells rejoiced at the news after being without a pope for about two weeks. Bergoglio was elected by his fellow cardinals as the successor of 85-year-old Pope Benedict XVI, who resigned last month saying he was no longer able to fulfill his duties.
At Caldwell College, a Catholic liberal arts school in Caldwell, students and faculty were glued to screens as the news unfolded from Vatican City.
Samantha Rivera, a freshman majoring in communications, was in the middle of a live newscast when she was passed notes from her news director saying a pope had been chosen. The North Arlington student reported the news to the campus where she said "quite a few" students stopped what they were doing to watch from the cafeteria.
When the identity of the new pope was announced, Colette Liddy, media relations director at Caldwell College, said she and Rivera, along with Dominican Sister Honora Werner, saw live footage from a computer as Pope Francis stepped onto the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica.
Liddy said she was moved by the experience of praying along with the world.
"He asked us to join him in prayer," said Liddy, a resident of Caldwell. "It was very moving and very humble of him."
Bergoglio, the son of Italians, was born on Dec. 17, 1936 in Buenos Aires, according to the Vatican. Bergoglio was ordained for the Jesuits in 1969 and was elevated to cardinal by John Paul II in 2001. He is the first Pope to hail from the Americas.
Braz said choosing to be named for Francis of Assisi is telling of Bergoglio's character. She said Francis is the patron saint of animals and is known as a peacekeeper and gentle man.
The Roseland resident was working in her shop, which sells Catholic items such as bibles, icons and gifts, when the news broke. She said she and a customer went into the back room to watch on a small television set.
"I'm glad they chose a Latin [American]," she said, "I think that's probably the best thing for the Catholic Church."
Caldwell College history major Rosie Burke was holding a bake sale on campus Wednesday when she heard the news of the white smoke which signifies a new pope has been elected. She said she had been following the story closely since Pope Benedict announced his resignation in February, and that she debated with her friends who should be elected the next pontiff.
"I think it's absolutely incredible to see the election of the Pope," she said. "It's the one time that Catholics get worldwide attention."
Burke will have a chance to see Pope Francis give the weekly Papal Blessing later this month while on a short study trip to Rome with 15 other Caldwell College students. The trip will be led by Caldwell College President Dr. Nancy Blattner.
James Flynn, an associate professor of philosophy at the college, remarked on the significance of the cardinals' choice coming from outside of Europe.
"I think that, given the international nature of the Church, it is wonderful they chose a new Pope from South America," Flynn said. "I also think it is great that he comes from such a renowned intellectual order in the Church, the Jesuits. It is an exciting time for the Church."
Terrie Michaels, an employee of Notre Dame Parish in North Caldwell, called this a memorable day. Michaels said although she was not at the church office today she watched the news from her tablet as a passenger in a car on the New Jersey Turnpike.
"I guess I will always remember this pope election!" she said, adding, "I am optimistic about the choice and pray that Pope Francis brings positive change to the church."
Pope Francis is the 266th pope.
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