WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- Catholics worldwide celebrated the election of Pope Francis Wednesday.
Today at St. Mary Catholic Church in Wilmington, Spanish speakers were thrilled that the newly-elected pope is Latin American.
Latin Americans make up about 40 percent of the world's Catholics. The community is celebrating the new era of Pope Francis.
"This makes us really proud," Marisol Gomez Quintane said.
"It means a lot that he can speak to us in our own language," Norma Rivera said.
"I was proud of him, because he does make a change," Arely Ramieraz said.
Traditionally, the top post in the Catholic Church has gone to a European. Argentine Jorge Bergoglio is the first pope from the Americas. He is also the first Jesuit pope.
The former Archbishop of Buenos Aires took a vow of poverty and lived a simple lifestyle, which some think will add to his ability to lead the church.
"That is certainly a great value," St. Mary pastor Fr. Bob Kus said.
With controversy surrounding the Roman Catholic Church, Catholics are hopeful about the future and the role Pope Francis will have.
"I think we need that unity; the person that will bring us back together," Rivera said. "The Catholic Church has a lot of problems, too, and I think he is the right person to bring all of us together."
Fr. Kus said he is not quite sure what Pope Francis’s leadership means to the church yet, but he says the pontiff is off to a great start.