New pope ignites enthusiasm and hope in Latinos

Shelly Guadalupe cries at St. Patricks Cathedral as

Shelly Guadalupe cries at St. Patricks Cathedral as a new Pope is named. (Charles Eckert) (Credit: Shelly Guadalupe cries at St. Patricks Cathedral as a new Pope is named. (Charles Eckert))

Ya era hora!

The selection of Jorge Mario Bergoglio as the 266th pope has not only suffused the Latino Catholic community with pride, but ignited enthusiasm and instilled hope in a congregation in need of reassurance that they are valued and loved.

"I didn't really feel a connection to the last pope and haven't really been feeling a connection to the church. With all the scandals, you get disappointed," said Luciana Sartorio, 27, a medical assistant from Ozone Park who is of Argentine descent.

"Now I can't wait to go to church this Sunday: I'm excited! They finally picked someone from this side of the world!"

While some may discount Bergoglio's Latino heritage -- both of his parents are Italian -- "at least he was born and raised in Buenos Aires," and was raised speaking Spanish, Sartorio pointed out.

The selection of Bergoglio "will renew the faith of many Latino New Yorkers," predicted Enrique Sanchez, owner of the Buenos Aires Tango Steak House in Forest Hills.

The news could strengthen Catholicism throughout this hemisphere, where it has been increasingly losing ground to other branches of Christianity, said Sanchez, who pronounced the choice of Bergoglio a triumph "for all the Americas" -- North, South and Central.

"All the Latinos here are extremely happy. They've been waiting for this for decades," said Victor Velarde, professor of philosophical theology at Seton Hall University.

Forty percent of all Catholics are Hispanic, said Velarde, and while Bergoglio is "very traditional," and close to Benedict XVI theologically, he "is beloved in Argentina," and cares deeply about the poor.

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