Local Catholics call new pope 'humble, good man'

William DeShazer/Staff
Gloria Collins, of Fort Myers, attends a 5 p.m. mass service at Ave Maria University Oratory after Bergoglio of Argentina was announced as the new Pope on Wednesday March 13, 2013. “I’m so excited,” Collins said.

Photo by WILLIAM DESHAZER, Naples Daily News // Buy this photo

William DeShazer/Staff Gloria Collins, of Fort Myers, attends a 5 p.m. mass service at Ave Maria University Oratory after Bergoglio of Argentina was announced as the new Pope on Wednesday March 13, 2013. “I’m so excited,” Collins said.

Video from NBC-2

Southwest Floridians — both here and in Vatican City — rejoiced Wednesday as white smoke poured through the chimney atop the Sistine Chapel announcing a new pope had been chosen.

“With a puff of white smoke, we have a new pope,” said Jane Adolphe, an Ave Maria School of Law professor who currently works at the Vatican for the Secretariat of State. “There is something beautiful and mysterious about that.”

Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina was elected Pope. He chose the name Francis, associating himself with the humble 13th century Italian preacher who lived a life of poverty.

Adolphe said St. Peter’s Square was packed Wednesday as people waited for the announcement.

“It is electric,” she said.

Kim Scharfenberger was among those in the crowd this week. The 21-year-old Ave Maria University student is studying in Rome for the semester and said she was excited to witness the election of a new pope.

Scharfenberger waited in the rain Tuesday evening to see the results of the first vote and said the moment was filled with suspense and excitement. She wasn’t deterred, though, when black smoke poured through the chimney and made the trek back to St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday as soon as she saw the white smoke.

In an email to the Daily News on Wednesday, Scharfenberger she was “absolutely surprised” by the selection, but thinks he’s “an excellent choice for the Church.”

“I have a strong sense of this man’s holiness. He is a humble and good man; that much is very certain,” she said in an email. “I just have this faith that this is a new season of growth for the Church.”

Closer to home, Southwest Florida Catholics said they were thrilled with the historic announcement.

“It’s always a point of tremendous unity and excitement whenever we have the election of a new pope,” said Billy Atwell, spokesman for the Diocese of Venice, which includes Collier and Lee counties.

Eugene Milhizer, president and dean of Ave Maria School of Law, echoed Atwell’s statement, and said “it’s a great day for the universal church, it’s a great day for Catholics everywhere (and) it’s a great day for the world.”

It was also a great day for Argentina and Jesuits. The selection marks the first time a pontiff came from the Americas, the first time one came from outside Europe and the first time a Jesuit was elected.

That last fact, said Livio Ferrari, an Argentine living in Southwest Florida, may be more important than where Francis is from.

“The fact that he’s a Jesuit is incredible,” he said.

__ The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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