Local Catholic leaders react to the newly elected Pope Francis

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - As news of white smoke echoed across the globe, Catholic leaders near and far reflect on the magnitude of this day.

Two local catholic leaders talk about why the name Francis is significant and what they think this will mean for the future of the Roman Catholic Church.

St. Patrick's Catholic Church, Father Francis O'Dowd says, "It's unbelievable that we have a pope from South America. The first pope ever, the first Jesuit ever and the first pope whose used the name Francis as his name."

O'Dowd says prayer is what the 266th pontiff needs right now.

"The whole church, will unite, God willing, behind the new pontiff and pray for his enormous struggles he has that he will face. Anyone with that responsibility needs their head on their shoulders, needs the prayer of all the community both Catholic and non-catholic alike,"said O'Dowd.

Bishop of Tyler, Joseph Strickland thinks it's exciting that the cardinals were able to unite around a leader that is from the new world.

"The fact that he's from the new world, from South America, from the America's. I think it's a great sign," said Strickland.

Both Catholic leaders say choosing the name Francis is reflection of where the new pope is to lead the Catholic Church.

O'Dowd said, "The name our Holy Father took, Francis, to be simplicity in all things. I think maybe that's where the church is heading be simple. Be humble. Be kind. Be Christ-centered."

"Francis was a man of simplicity. A man of the poor. From what I've heard about Francis the first that he has that style of leadership which I think is important, said Strickland. "I think there is great significance for Francis the first to choose that name because I think our world in many ways needs a spiritual rebuilding."

Strickland says this day shows that the Catholic Church is up-to-date and fresh but certainly brings new challenges for Pope Francis.

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