By Lucy Jordan, Senior Contributing Reporter

BRASÍLIA, BRAZIL – The Catholic Church yesterday made history by selecting its first Latin American pope. The selection of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, from Argentina, over favorite from Brazil, São Paulo’s Cardinal Odilo Scherer, surprised many.

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Brazil News
Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, of Argentina, has been elected as pope, photo by Agencia Brasil.

“’The pope is Argentinian, but I am Brazilian’ – God” was retweeted thousands of times by Brazilians around the world.

Others alluded to the fact that Brazilians could not help but feel somewhat put out by losing out to Argentina, historically their biggest rival in everything from football (soccer) to trade.

Manoela D’Ávila, a congresswoman from Rio Grande do Sul, tweeted: “To lose to Argentina makes me laugh.”

With the world’s largest Catholic population, Scherer – an austere but well-respected workaholic who has close ties to the Vatican – was widely considered a favorite.

“I would say that Scherer is the best bet,” American John Allen Jr, a respected Vatican expert told Globo recently. “He has a good reputation and is admired here (in the Vatican).”

However, many Brazilians said they were not disappointed, and that a pope from any non-European country was a step forward.

“No, [I am not disappointed], because the pope will not just be a father to Argentina or to Latin America, but to the whole world,” Father Mauricio Cop, of the Lady Guadaloupe Church in Brasília, told The Rio Times.

“However, while he could have been from Europe and I would still be happy, that God chose for the first time a pope from another continent expresses the universality of the church,” he said.

Cardinal Bergoglio, who has taken the name Francis, is not a progressive choice. He vigorously opposed the Argentinian government’s plan support for a gay marriage bill, writing, “Let’s not be naive: this isn’t a simple political fight, it’s an attempt to destroy God’s plan.”

He is famous for tending to the poor and eschewing luxury; he lives in a small apartment, takes the bus and cooks his own meals.

“I see a man of great humility, who is a blesser of the people,” “When he worked in Buenos Aires he was known as helping the poorest people, of kissing the feet of people suffering with AIDS, and of caring for the sick,” said Father Cop.

Controversial stories have already started to emerge about Pope Francis; it was reported this morning that he has been accused of knowing about, and ignoring, human rights abuses and disappearances during Argentina’s Dirty War during the 1970s.

Read more (in Portuguese).

* The Rio Times Daily Updates feature is offered to help keep you up-to-date with important news as it happens.

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