The spiritual leader of Long Island's 1.4 million Catholics Wednesday called Pope Francis "a good priest and a very holy man who exudes a kind of openness to people."
Bishop William Murphy said he believes he met Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio only once, in passing, on a trip to Buenos Aires about 10 years ago.
Murphy, speaking at St. Agnes Cathedral Parish Center in Rockville Centre, said he was moved by Bergoglio's gesture of asking the faithful to pray for him silently before he prayed for them.
"What a holy and humble guy this is," Murphy said.
The new pope is sure to have his own style, the bishop said, "but I think the teaching of the church will stay what it is."
Murphy said he doesn't know when he will get to Rome to meet the new pope, but he hopes it will be this spring or summer.
Across Long Island and in New York City, Catholics rejoiced at the news.
Jake Plunkett, 44, of Rockville Centre, showed up at St. Agnes to pray shortly after the announcement was made at the Vatican. The church doors were still locked just before 4 p.m., so Plunkett, a bond trader, said he would come back later.
"It was really quite moving," he said of watching the new pope speak. "The enormity of the moment seemed to be offset a little bit by his humility.
"The problems of the church are well-known, and well-documented, but they are not anything that can't be overcome," he added.
At St. Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan, John Coyle of Port Washington watched the video feed from the Vatican on a large screen.
"I think it's wonderful," said Coyle, 76. "I came to witness the emotional reaction and feel the excitement and hope for a new direction."
Coyle, a longtime parishioner at St. Mary Church in Roslyn, said he was pleased Pope Francis is a Jesuit. "They have a strong sense of resolution and know the appropriate approach on how to practice our religion," he said.
Bill Donohue, head of the Manhattan-based Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, voiced a similar sentiment, hailing the new pope as "a moral traditionalist, but committed to the poor."
Donohue said it was "exciting that the Euro-central mode has been broken," with the Bergoglio becoming the first non-European to lead the church.
"All Catholics in New York will be Irish for St. Patrick's Day this weekend, and we'll be Latino next Tuesday," when the pope is installed, Donohue said.
With William Murphy
and Ellen Yan