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Local Argentines on new pope: 'I never thought this would happen'

March 13, 2013 |  2:23 pm

As word spread that Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina had been named the next pope, local Argentines celebrated the news.

Eduardo Ahamad, owner of Rincon Argentino grocery store in Glendale, said: "I was ready to run outside with my flag. I can only imagine that Argentinians are celebrating."

Ahamad, who is part Mexican and Argentine, said the selection is a break from the usual popes that have been selected in past centuries.

Full coverage: Election of a pope

"We think it's going to be an Italian even an American, but not this," Ahamad said. "It's something new, different. I never thought this would happen."

Francis, 76, succeeds Benedict XVI as leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics. Benedict stunned the church when he stepped down last month, becoming the first pontiff to do so in six centuries.

He was chosen after five rounds of voting over two days in the Sistine Chapel.

PHOTOS: Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio elected pope

In Lynwood, 38-year-old Isiero Carrillo, a Catholic and owner of El Che, an Argentine meat market, said he was watching Spanish-language news when he heard the announcement.  

"I couldn't believe it," he said. "For a moment I thought this wasn't really happening. It's the first time this has happened to us," he added. "What a blessing."

He said the majority of his customers were happy to hear of the news too. Some commented about the historic significance of having the first pope from Latin America. Others were discussing the pope's role in addressing the issues facing the Catholic Church. 

INTERACTIVE: Choosing a new pope

Carrillo hopes the best for the new pope and said that while today was a historic day for Latinos, it should be a joyful day for all Catholics. 

Marcelo Sala, 50, of Reseda, who owns the 1810 Argentinean Restaurant in Pasadena, said, "To me personally, it's not a big deal."

But Sala said he is not a devout Catholic. He was born in Buenos Aires and immigrated 23 years ago.

“It’s definitely a good thing because people will know more about Argentina,” Sala said.

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-- Ruben Vives and Joe Piasecki

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