Lynchburg, VA- The election of Pope Francis is being celebrated around the world, and here at home.
We spoke to local Catholic leaders about what it was like watching the entire process unfold. They say they felt like they were in Vatican City, waiting with the crowds in St. Peter's Square. They also say they felt united--a wonderful feeling that they hope lasts under their new spiritual leader.
All across the world, people tuned in to see the white smoke billow from the Sistine Chapel's chimney.
Whether in schools
"I had made an all-school announcement to tell everybody because we were very excited to learn of our new pope," said Patti Culbreth, Principal of Holy Cross School.
"I looked at those, that crowd of people chanting 'vive la papa' and so excited, and I thought, 'I'm one of them too,'" said Msgr. Michael McCarron, KHS, Pastor of St. Thomas More Roman Catholic Church.
People of faith came together to watch history unfold. Students at Holy Cross School were eagerly awaiting the announcement. They'd been following the conclave, and were so excited to finally hear the good news, they stayed after school.
"They sent us out instead to tell their parents to just wait on them, and that they were waiting for the new pope," said Culbreth.
And, it was worth the wait.
"I had tears in my eyes when he came out on the balcony," said McCarron.
"It was exciting to see those doors open and know that they had made a decision to do something I think people didn't expect."
Pope Francis may have been unexpected, but not unknown. McCarron says this new spiritual leader has a reputation for living modestly and delivering the gospel to the unlikeliest of places.
"This holy father has a history of seeking out those that are in the margins, and embracing those that have lived in the shadows."
A trait, McCarron says, is needed to bring people to the church.
"I hope that this holy father, to a world that's screaming 'Where does Jesus live? Where is he?' will open the church's doors widely and say 'come and see.'"
Monsignor McCarron says his church, like so many others, is praying for Pope Francis.
Prayers that he'll unite the church, that he'll reach out to those struggling with their faith, and that he'll give the church direction in confusing times.