'A huge gift for Latin America'
THE election of Argentinian cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Latin America's first-ever Pope was met with jubilation on the streets of Buenos Aires.
The conclave of cardinals' historic decision to elect the Argentinian will come as great news to the 480 million Catholics in Latin America – home to 40pc of the world's estimated 1.2 billion Roman Catholics.
The Argentinian capital erupted into scenes of unbridled celebration as the faithful burst into tears of joy after the conclave in Rome named the new Pope Francis.
At the St Francis of Assisi Church in the colonial Old San Juan district in Puerto Rico, church secretary Antonia Veloz (50) exchanged jubilant high-fives with Jose Antonio Cruz, a Franciscan friar.
"This is something exciting. I'm speechless," she said."
Friar Cruz said the election of a Latin American to the position of pontiff has been a long time coming.
"It's a huge gift for all of Latin America. We waited 20 centuries. It was worth the wait," she said.
"Everyone from Canada down to Patagonia is going to feel blessed. This is an event."
In Santo Domingo, the bells pealed in the city's main cathedral in the colonial district while in Panama City, worshipper Nelsa Aponte said: "This made me cry, I had to get out my handkerchief.
"We have a new pastor, and for the first time, he is from Latin America."
Pope Francis (76) also made history as the first-ever Jesuit pope.
He has made headlines for clashing with Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner over his opposition to gay marriage and the free distribution of contraceptives.
The former archbishop of Buenos Aires is renowned in Argentina as a skilled pastoral teacher with a keen political savvy, yet self-effacing personality.
He is also known for modernising the church in his home country which has been one of the most conservative in Latin America.