ROME— The election of Pope Francis was especially meaningful for Rome's small Argentine community.
It's a small church by Rome's standards, but on Sunday it was packed with Argentinians who came to honor the man many call “our pope.”
Argentinian priest Father Eduardo Mangirotti worked with Jorge Mario Bergoglio when he was the senior cardinal in Argentina.
“When you meet him in person, he seems almost reserved," said Mangirotti. "But at the same time, when he preaches he has always been extremely straightforward, extremely passionate. I think that's what we can expect from a Latin American priest.”
Many in the congregation felt Pope Francis' selection very personally.
“We are proud to have an Argentinians and Latin American pope," said one person. "We are doubly content and that's why we came here to celebrate.”
“Personally, I am very happy, very emotional, and I think this pope will bring to the Church the unity that Christianity needs," said another. "As Argentinians, we are very content.”
“I'm very, very happy. I think it will be a positive change for the Church because he's such a simple guy. I don't know. He's like such a friend, you know," said still another.
Argentine Cardinal Stanislaw Karlic is a friend of the new pope and spoke at Sunday's service. He called the pope “our brother so close to us,” and said his selection is “a gift” and “an honor.”
It was a view many in the church shared, but Father Eduardo said the selection also carries responsibility.
“It's both a gift and it's also a job for us, so to speak," he said. "I think it calls us to be even more committed as Christians to the preaching of the Gospel, to the service of other people, and as Argentineans to a deeper commitment to our country and also to the world.”
It's a new role for these Argentinians, and a new sense of pride. They expect “their pope” to make them even more proud - to overcome scandals, bring Catholics worldwide together and be a man of the people. That's a lot for someone said to be shy and humble, who used to ride the bus to work back home, just like many of these people did.