The choice of a new pope has Roman Catholics in Sacramento looking forward to seeing what kind of leader Jorge Mario Bergoglio will be for the denomination.
Cardinal Bergoglio, 76, of Argentina, was chosen Wednesday by prelates after a quicker-than-expected a conclave in Vatican City's Sistine Chapel.
"It was a surprise at first for me but not a disappointment," said Monsignor. James Murphy, vicar of the Sacramento Diocese.
Like his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, the new pope has led a simple life, ministering to the poor, choosing to live in a small apartment, and riding the bus instead of in a limousine, Murphy said.
Murphy quoted St. Francis of Assisi as saying, "Preach at all times and when necessary, say it in words." He said he expects the new pope to lead by example.
He also expects him to be a reformer. The central bureaucracy of the church needs to be updated and to be more transparent in dealing with issues of sexual abuse, Murphy said.
The Rev. Michael Kiernan, pastor of Our Lady of Assumption Church in Carmichael, said he was delighted with the choice.
"He's a man of great experience," Kiernan said. "He has a great concern for the poor. He's a Jesuit priest so undoubtedly he has traveled the world. He's a little older than I thought they would choose, but on the other hand, his qualities must have been very impressive because the cardinals quickly came to a conclusion."
The cardinals took only four votes before selecting Bergoglio, who has chosen the name of Pope Francis I.
"I think he will bring a great awareness of the whole world," Kiernan said. "He is the first non-European pope. He's a fresh face for sure."
Fran Anderson, administrative associate at St. Francis Church in midtown, was not familiar with the background of Pope Francis I but when she watched him on television she was impressed.
"I was very impressed that he asked the people of god to bless him as he starts on this enormous responsibility," she said. "It struck me that there was true humility."
Sacramento-area resident and Catholic parishioner Laurette Elsberry noted that the new pope took the name Francis I.
"The minute I heard that he had chosen the name Francis, I thanked God for this blessing," she said. "St. Francis of Assisi was told by God to 'rebuild my church.' By taking this name, our new pope is stating to the world that he knows what his task must be."
Murphy said it is significant to local Catholics that the new pope is from a Latin American country, noting that 50 percent of the members of the Sacramento Diocese are Hispanic.
"People are excited," Murphy said. "It's a brand new chapter in the church's history."
Call The Bee's Bill Lindelof, (916) 321-1079. Follow him on Twitter @Lindelofnews.