Catholics worldwide are celebrating the election of a new pope.
The leader of Meridian's Catholic community, Father Frank Cosgrove, and members of St. Patrick Catholic Church watched as the announcement was made Wednesday afternoon from Rome.
Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, 76, who took the name Pope Francis, is a native of Argentina, the first Jesuit and the first non-European to serve.
Cosgrove says he has high hopes for the new pope.
"It's a very important thing for the Catholic church, because he's our leader. He's the one that brings us together," said Father Cosgrove. "He's a unifier and that's hard for 1.2 billion people, I'm sure, of different cultures and so forth. But he's also the one that reaches out from the church to the rest of the world."
Pope Francis asked for prayers for himself and for retired Pope Benedict XVI, whose resignation in February paved the way for the conclave that chose the Argentinian.
World leaders are sending their congratulations.
President Obama said the selection of the first pope from the Americas speaks to the strength and vitality of the region. British Prime Minister David Cameron said the announcement was "a momentous day for the 1.2 billion Catholics around the world." European Union leaders Herman Van Rompuy and Jose Manuel Barroso wished the new Catholic leader "a long and blessed pontificate."
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