Associated Press
Crowds gather at cathedral in Buenos Aires after Pope Francis was named. 
Associated Press
Crowds gather at cathedral in Buenos Aires after Pope Francis was named. 
When Tualatin Catholic Laura Howard saw Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio step onto the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, the first person she called was her mother.

Howard grew up in the Diocese of Buenos Aires, where her mother, Ileana Sorrentino, still lives. Sorrentino observes holidays at the Cathedral where Cardinal Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, celebrated Mass.

Sorrentino has long loved hearing the man’s soft-spoken, but firmly worded homilies, criticizing corruption of politicians and other injustices faced by the people in the South American country.

In his first address to the world, Pope Francis quipped about how far he traveled to be their pope.

“As you know, the duty of the conclave is to give Rome a bishop," he said. "It seems that my brother cardinals went almost to the end of the earth to find him."

Sorrentino watched with excitement as he stepped on to the balcony, tears running down her face. She believes he will unite the church.

The first pope from the Americas, Cardinal Bergoglio is also the world's first Jesuit pope. He is known worldwide for his pastoral focus.

The cardinal, praised for living what he preaches, said in 2005 that one of the biggest temptations facing bishops, priests or lay people who work for the church is the temptation to feel they are special. 

“One of the most serious problems that faces the church and that often threatens the evangelizing tasks of its pastoral agents is that we are more concerned with the ‘things of God,’ so inserted in the ecclesiastical world, that we frequently forget to be good Christians,” he said.

During their official pre-conclave meetings, according to the Catholic News Service, the cardinals extensively discussed the corruption and mismanagement documented in the 2012 "VatiLeaks.” 

The new pope’s history of austere living — not to mention his decision to take the name of St. Francis of Assisi, a great reformer known as the "poor little one" — must have seemed especially appealing in that context.

“He is a very simple man,” Sorrentino said in an interview with El Centinela, the Catholic Sentinel’s sister paper. “He took the subway with the people, and didn’t travel first class when going abroad. He went at Easter to nursing homes to wash the feet of the elderly.”

Though humble, he is an affable man, she said.

Many years ago, the new bishop of Rome, gave Sorrentino a card of the “Virgin Desatanudos” (or Virgin Mary, Untier of Knots – a reference to Mary’s intercession in life’s complications) with a written prayer. She still has the card and holds it to her heart as she prays for the safety of her family.

“As an Argentinian, I was thrilled and prayed for him for the great responsibility that he will have in the future,” Sorrentino said. “But I trust in him completely.”

— Catholic News Service contributed to this story