News of the election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires as pope was greeted with joy in the Diocese of Oakland.
Father Olea has worked for the new pope. "I am so happy," he said. "I cannot believe it."
As a missionary, Father Olea spent 20 years in Africa, from 1982 to 2002, before returning to the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires, for seven years before coming to the Oakland diocese.
"He's a very humble man," he said of the former archbishop of Buenos Aires. "because of his humility, he would travel in the underground," which Father Olea likened to BART.
"I am happy for him and for the church," he said. "I hear that when he was ordained a cardinal at the Vatican, he arrived on foot," he said.
At the same time, Father Olea said, he can be very strict. "He was in trouble with government of President Cristina Kirchner," the priest said. "The government in my country is not telling the truth about poverty."
The cardinal was "unafraid" to challenge government statistics.
"He is a silent man, a reserved man," Father Olea said, describing him as "prayerful and very strict in following the theology."
He noted that he started a TV channel, available on the Internet, for the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires.
Rev. Sergio Lopez, parochial administrator of Corpus Christi Parish in Fremont, said he was at first surprised by the news, which can be seen as a testament to "all the faith in the Americas. … It is really good news."
Father Lopez, who had been in Rome from 2004 to 2010, years, recalled the 2005 election of Pope Benedict XVI as he watched the March 13 ceremony on television.
His election as pope shows "The Holy Spirit is working in the church," Father Lopez said.
Rev. Oscar Mendez-Guzman, OFM, pastor of St. Elizabeth Parish in Oakland's Fruitvale district, said humility must be one of the new pope's traits. "That's why he chose Francis" as his name.
For the Jesuit to choose the name Francis, is "a blessing for us," the Franciscan priest said.
That humility also resonated with Hector Medina, director of Latino ministry for the Diocese of Oakland.
"He tries to live humbly, he cooks his own meals. We can say, 'He's one of us.' He likened the humble life of Pope Francis to that lived by the priests of the diocese, who live in the middle of the people, "el pueblo de Dios," Medina said.
The cardinals' decision to "look to the other side" of the world and "choose simplicity" show hope, Medina said.
Rev. Michael McCarthy, SJ, of the University of Santa Clara spent a busy afternoon fielding questions on the new pope. "He is deeply, deeply interested in listening to the poor, and how decisions in the world affect them," said the Jesuit priest, professor of theology and executive director of Santa Clara University's Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education.
"He is a deeply, deeply spiritual man," said Father McCarthy. For him, the most moving part of Pope Francis' introduction was when he bowed his head and asked people to pray silently for him.
Cassie Vonnegut, who had been invited earlier this month to participate in a mock conclave with other students, was watching on TV in her classroom at All Saints School in Hayward when Pope Francis made his appearance at the window.
"I was so surprised," she said. "I actually guessed that."
Cassie, who had researched Cardinal Bergoglio, had been impressed with his humility and the fact that he lived in an apartment and cooked his own meals. She was pleased to see that the real cardinals saw something in that humility.
"He really touched all the other cardinals," she said.
His papacy will have special meaning for her, she said, and she looks forward to reading more about him.
For seminarian Matthew Murphy, the opportunity to study at the Pontifical North American College has been added to by the conclave.
"There is a great deal of excitement here in Rome during this time," he said, the morning before the election of Pope Francis. "St. Peter's Square is packed with people when the results of the votes are shown through the chimney. The expectation in the square is tangible."
Pat Morgan, a member of the Catholic Community of Pleasanton, said, "I'm thrilled and excited. I was expecting maybe a Pope John Paul III but we have Pope Francis. Maybe he will bring a brand new focus to the Church as well as his name."
And Louise Ridsdale from St. Michael Parish, Livermore said, "What was most amazing to me is that not just the Catholic community is excited about the new pope, even non-Catholics are excited about it and they are interested in the whole tradition and how cardinals become pope."
— Carrie McClish contributed to this report.
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