Many Catholic Latinos in Merced are overjoyed to have a pope from South America.
Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, 76, was recently selected to lead the Catholic Church. He will go by Pope Francis.
"This is a very important change and significant for the whole Hispanic community," Javier Mendoza said in Spanish after attending Sunday Mass at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in south Merced. "This is something very special for us Catholics."
"We are very happy," wife Alfa Perez interrupted with excitement.
Bergoglio is the first pope to be elected from South America. Pope Benedict XVI resigned last month, citing health issues.
Mendoza hopes Bergoglio will continue to be as humble as he was while serving as cardinal.
"And we hope that he follows the steps of Pope John Paul II," he said.
Merced resident Blanca Chavez said the change of having a pope from South America is a positive one.
"We needed it," she said.
She believes the new pope will aid those suffering from poverty.
"We have to have hope," she said in Spanish.
Salome Figueroa Chavez agreed.
"I think it's good, so he can help the poor," she said in Spanish.
Guadalupe Ochoa, who was overjoyed with the Latin American pope, said the selection took her by surprise.
"It's fantastic," she said.
Aurora Martinez said that for her it didn't matter where the pope was from.
"For me, all the popes have been good," she said.
Pope Francis needs to think about the changes he wants to see in the Catholic Church, Figueroa Chavez said.
Mendoza said he hopes that the new pope will address the sexual abuse scandals that have surfaced in the Catholic church.
"If some need to be punished, then they have to be punished," he said of those involved in the scandals.
Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (209) 385-2482 or firstname.lastname@example.org.