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World Sends Congratulations To First Pope From Latin America

Leaders from around the world are sending their congratulations to the newly elected leader of the Roman Catholic church, Pope Francis, who is the first ever Latin American to become bishop of Rome.

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina on Wednesday also became the first Jesuit to become a pontiff and the first to be named Francis, after Saint Francis of Assisi, protector of the poor.

In his first public address, the 76-year-old Pope Francis noted that his fellow cardinals looked beyond the usual to select a new leader.

U.S. President Barack Obama praised the selection of the first pope from the Americas, saying that it speaks to the strength and vitality of a region that he said is "increasingly shaping our world." He was among the first to extend best wishes to the new pontiff, whom he called the champion of the poor and vulnerable.

Vice-president Joe Biden, who is a Roman Catholic, will lead the U.S. delegation to attend the new pope's inauguration mass in the Vatican next Tuesday.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry issued a statement Wednesday saying that the United States is committed to working with the Holy See to advance a shared belief in peace and humanity.

Argentinians were ecstatic about the selection of the first pope from their country as were Hispanics in the rest of Latin America and elsewhere.

About 40 percent of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics live in Latin America, with Brazil and Mexico having the largest Catholic populations.

Pope Francis, like the saint whose name he has chosen, is noted for his humility and commitment to social issues.

He has also been criticized for his firm opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion, and for his absence of criticism against the atrocities committed by Argentina's military regime between 1976 and 1983.


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