Arizona Catholics react to selection of Pope Francis

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By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

PHOENIX -- As Pope Francis greeted the world from Rome, here in Phoenix the bells at St. Mary's Basilica rang with joy. Many Catholics like Yomahira Viallalobos felt called to church.

"It was very exciting!," she said.

She calls the choice of this South American man, the first Latin Pope, unexpected, and very moving.

"While watching the coverage on TV, the Argentinian flags were flying all over, that was beautiful, so it's exciting to have an American Pope," she said.

That feeling of ownership within the Latino community was echoed by Phoenix Bishop Thomas Olmstead.

"I think it's natural that anyone who's first language is Spanish, like many who live here in the Diocese of Phoenix, that they will take a certain sense of pride, gratitude, and almost a sense of 'This is our Pope,'" he said.

There are already many hopes from Arizona's Catholics that Francis will bring people back to the church and that he'll give the growing number of Latino faithful the attention they deserve. Time will tell. But in this first impression, he has won fans already through his humble remarks.

"His sweet smile when he spoke, he seems very timid but that sweet smile gave me great comfort in my heart," said Viallalobos.