LI's Latino Catholics cheer Argentine pope

Violeta Torrejon from North Babylons pray during a

Violeta Torrejon from North Babylons pray during a Latino Charismatic Prayer service held at Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Roman Catholic Church in Wyandanch. (March 13, 2013) (Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara)

Some of Long Island's Latinos reacted with surprise and joy that the new pope hailed from Latin America -- a first -- while others said they hoped Pope Francis can overcome scandal in the Roman Catholic Church and be a beacon of peace for all the world.

At a news conference Wednesday not long after Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires was elected pope, Bishop William Murphy, head of the Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre, said Bergoglio's selection will mean a great deal to Long Island's many Latino Catholics.

"Latin America has been the Catholic continent in our hemisphere," Murphy said. "I think this is a great sign, not only to many people here, but to many people across Latin America."


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Pope Francis, the 266th pontiff, is the first to hail from the Americas and the first from outside Europe in a millennium.

Hugo Garcia, a native of Mendoza, Argentina, who owns Cafe Buenos Aires in downtown Huntington, said he never expected to have a pope from Argentina, calling it "unbelievable."

Garcia recalled news reports that suggested a pope could come from the ranks of cardinals in Italy, or perhaps Brazil. He thought then, he said, how "wonderful it could be" if a cardinal from Brazil were selected, since that would represent South America.

"Then when I heard the name and they said Argentina . . . I'm so happy. I'm very, very impressed. I wish him good luck, not only for South and North American people, but that he will find a way for peace all over the world."

Inside of Central Islip's St. John of God Catholic Church, a printout of the new pope's picture was posted on the front door to greet parishioners.

Margarita Ramos, 46, cheered Bergoglio's selection. "It's great news," she said. "It shows that no matter what part of the world you're from we can all have good hearts and good intentions," said Ramos, a native of El Salvador. She added the pope's nationality wasn't as important as having someone who could bring the church together.

Clara Garcia, 30, originally from El Salvador, said she hoped the new pope could veer the church from the sex abuse scandal. "I am still saddened by the things that have impacted our church," she said, adding she would pray that God "give the new pope guidance."

Her friend, Ana Mendez, 31, also of El Salvador, said she would refrain from stating an opinion on the new pope just because he spoke her native Spanish.

"It's beautiful that he represents Latin America," Mendez said, "but we also have to see what changes he will bring."

With Ann Givens, Deborah Morris and Laura Figueroa

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