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World, valley react to next pope

Rogue Valley Catholics reacted with delight Wednesday to the selection of the first Latin American pope.

"We're really excited and especially because he's from South America," said Deacon Felix Garcia of Shepherd of the Valley Catholic Church in Central Point. "We hope he demonstrates to the world all the good things we have as a church."

Garcia noted the reported humility of Jorge Bergoglio, who chose the papal name Francis.

He lived in a small apartment in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and used public transportation.

"They chose the right man for this moment in the church," Garcia said. "Humility is one of the things most needed. We all need to be humble and demonstrate what Jesus wants."

Working at El Gallo Market on West Main in Medford, Grisselda Pulido said, "It's kind of surprising. There are a lot of Catholic Hispanic people. It's going to bring a lot of them into the church. A lot don't go. They say they're Catholic and they go to First Communion, but this will be motivating to attend church. It's really cool."

Also working behind the counter, Guadalupe Ramirez said, "It's better for Latinos. He speaks my language."

At her nearby gift shop, Novedades la Mexicana on West Main, Teresa Diaz said, "It's surprising. It's a good idea. It's everybody's dream. It benefits everyone."

The news just after noon Wednesday sent a wave of excitement through St. Mary's School in Medford, where "the kids are really interested in the process," according to Upper School Head Teacher Jim Meyer, who streamed the events of the day on the Internet for everyone.

"We saw the white smoke (meaning a pope was chosen). It was a bit of a surprise," Meyer said.

"No one expected him to choose the name Francis," he added. "Francis of Assisi is one of my favorite saints and represents education and intellect."

The new pontiff "has a lot of desire to reach out," said Meyer.

The Rev. Mike Walker, pastor of Shepherd of the Valley, said, "people are very excited about it."

"It's a change in perspective," he said. "We have a large Spanish-speaking population in our church, and it reflects the universal church we belong to. It's not just the selection of a Latino pope, but the selection of a good pope. It supersedes language and where you're from."

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

World, valley react to next pope