Tacoma-area youths hailed the election Wednesday of Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina, the first pope who is a Jesuit and from the Americas.
“It’s a good day,” said Will Kenick a native of Panama who attends Jesuit-sponsored Bellarmine Preparatory School.
“Two birds. One stone,” said the 18-year-old senior.
Bellarmine students weren’t the only Catholic school students in Tacoma excited Wednesday about the election of the new pope.
At St. Patrick Catholic School, students sat at their desks and watched eagerly as Pope Francis was introduced to the world.
Seventh-grader Taima Mitchell, 13, said he was excited “that we have a new leader that will guide us in God’s way.”
“It’s good to have a new pope,” said Sarah Krajewski, 13, another seventh-grader. “He’s like a messenger of God.”
Her history teacher, Nick Adams, explained to the class that Bergoglio is the first pope from the Americas.
“This is momentous,” Adams said. “This is really great.”
Eighth-graders in teacher Blanca Norton’s English class cheered and shouted after they learned white smoke had risen from the Sistine Chapel’s smokestack.
Students at the elementary and middle school watched Internet broadcasts projected onto large screens in their classrooms.
“It’s pretty exciting to get a new pope,” said Casey Thompson, 14.
“I’ve never seen a new pope chosen,” said Emily Reynolds-Walsh, 14, who was watching the news on a laptop and told her class when the white smoke appeared.
The selection of an Argentine was especially exciting for Norton, who is from Panama.
“I never thought I’d see a Latin pope,” said Norton, 39. “You are kind of rooting for a pope that comes from your area.”
At Bellarmine, a private Catholic high school in Tacoma, the buzz about the new pope had as much to do with him being a Jesuit as an Argentinian.
Students praised the Jesuit religious order for its stress on teaching, social justice and helping those in need. Some in a group of students selected by the school to talk to a reporter said they hope the new pope reaches out to young people.
Maryclare O’Brien-Wilson, from Puyallup, said she’s curious to see how the vow of poverty Bergoglio took as a Jesuit “is going to fit into the extravagant lifestyle of a pope.”
O’Brien-Wilson, 17, said she doesn’t expect the new pope will take the Catholic Church in a new direction. But she does expect he will deal with the clergy sex abuse scandal.
Sam Comfort, 18, from Fircrest, said it was “very cool” to see a pope elected from outside of Europe and for him to be a Jesuit.
“I believe he’ll have a strong emphasis on social justice,” Comfort said. “I really hope that he takes a strong, traditional stand in the church.”
Alex Cranstoun, 15, of Maple Valley, skipped class to watch the announcement on an iPad in the library.
“I figured since it was history in the making, it would be OK to skip world history,” Cranstoun said.
The name the new pope selected “symbolizes his strength and also his humility,” the sophomore said, noting Pope Francis’ connections to both St. Francis of Xavier and St. Francis of Assisi.
Colin O’Loughlin, 18, of Tacoma, said he’s taking a wait-and-see approach.
“It’s one thing to be a Jesuit and say you’re a Jesuit,” O’Loughlin said. “It’s another thing to show you’re a Jesuit.”
Steve Maynard: 253-597-8647