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Missoula Loyola students react to election of new pope

By Faith Smith, KECI Reporter, fcronin@keci.com
Published On: Mar 13 2013 11:01:40 PM MDT

The Catholic Church has a new leader and he chose the name Pope Francis.  76-year-old Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the archbishop of Buenos Aires, was elected on the fifth ballot, which is one of the fastest conclaves in years.

When he stepped onto the balcony at the Vatican, tens of thousands cheered his name. He asked for a prayer for retired Pope Benedict and then asked the crowd to pray for him and then led the Lord's Prayer.

In Missoula, Loyola Sacred Heart High School students watched for the second time in their lives as cardinals picked a pope.

Many say they remember seeing the white smoke when Pope Benedict was chosen a few years ago but they didn't think they'd be seeing the same ritual again so soon.

Students gathered in anticipation as news reporters waited for Pope Francis to make his appearance.

"Who is it?” wondered students when the curtains parted to introduce the former cardinal from Argentina.

Some Loyola students tell NBC Montana it's a defining moment in their lives. 

“I'm not even Catholic, I'm Episcopalian and this is still so amazing,” said senior Maria Abbot. 

“That we've elected someone from South American for the first time I think is pretty cool,” said junior Brayden Byrne.  “We’re branching out to the world instead of just Europe.”

One student says he appreciates that Pope Benedict broke protocol by stepping down because of advanced age.

"That fact that Pope Benedict XVI relinquished his duty as the pope, I think that's the prominent point of what a true leader is," said Byrne.   

This pope will have plenty of responsibility; he must reach out to young people like these Loyola students.

“If he can just find a way to make this church look good again, because we've been going through so many struggles,” said Loyola junior Katya Hall.  “If he can find a way to bring us back into a good light, then I think he's a great pope.”  

“I want a pope that's not afraid to speak to the people and a pope that's not afraid to take on challenges,” said Loyola student Matt Reiber. 

In an ancient ornate ceremony it may be ironic that this pope embraced Francis, the saint of poverty and humility.

“I do like the name Francis and I like what it stands for,” said Loyola student Eric Williams.  “I like the meaning behind it and what the original St. Francis of Assisi had his basis and his ideals.”

Loyola student Valerie Downing says this is one of the most unique days of her life.  “It's a great day in history and it's a great day for the Catholic Church.”

Thursday Pope Francis travels to Castel Gandolfo to meet with Pope Emeritus Benedict – it’s the first time in 600 years there's even been the possibility of two popes meeting face to face.