Guillermo Russian grew up in Argentina and went to school in Villa Devoto, a neighborhood in Buenos Aires. It was there where he met Pope Francis I, who gave numerous masses at his school.
But today, Russian lives in South Florida, and it was at his home in Aventura that he received the news: the priest who gave his school masses was now elected as the head of the Catholic Church.
“It’s a weird situation to see him with such an important position,” said Russian. “But most of all I am proud.”
Russian remembers Pope Francis I as a humble man, someone he could trust.
“He was just like any other person, and you could truly instill your trust in him,” said Russian, who despite having hope in his childhood priest was not expecting the news of the first Latin American pope.
“I was surprised, but I think this was meant to be part of the election,” said Russian. “This puts emphasis in Latin America, and hopefully it will help solve some of the problems that Argentina is facing today.”
The streets of Miami Beach's "Little Buenos Aires" community were filled with pride Wednesday afternoon. Although the occasion was unexpected, some celebrated at the Buenos Aires Bakery in Miami.
“Our customers were jumping,” said Argentine Gabriela Pasquarielo. “They were so excited, like ‘Viva Argentina.’ I think it's good, this is a big excitement.”
At St. Joseph Church, excitement was brewing among parishioners, especially one group.
"I think we'll hear about it for a long, long time from my Argentinian parishoners," said Father Juan Sosa.
Sosa, pastor of St. Joseph's, said the new pope will bring a unique skill set to the Papacy -- the ability to break down walls.
"He's able to speak a different kind of language -- not just Spanish -- it's the language of the people, the language of the poor, the language of the neglected," Sosa said.
Back in his native Buenos Aires, Sosa said Pope Francis was known for taking the bus, cooking his own meals, and living in a small, modest apartment. But it's not just his humility that has won over the Miami Beach faithful, his humor has too. He joked briefly before his first Papal blessing about how far his fellow Cardinals went to search for him.
"It's new hope, and I kind of like this Pope. He's kind of funny, he's got that touch," Alberto Correa said as he laughed.
"He really looked pretty good out there. He did not look 76," Pasquariello said.
Miami Beach resident Emma Brigier was glad to know that her future pope is a native Spanish speaker.
“I think it's fantastic. We need a pope that can speak wonderful Spanish, and it’s necessary that he can express himself,” said Brigier.
South Florida is home to the majority of Argentines in the United States, and Miami Beach is the city with the most residents born in Argentina, according to City-Data.com.
He is not only the first Latin American pope, but he is also the first Jesuit pope, who focuses on evangelization, education, research and missionary efforts.
"A simple man. A humble man. A man of God. The first Jesuit, the first Argentinian, the first pope from the New World, and the first to take the name Francis. The Holy Spirit is capable of rendering great surprises!," said Archbishop of Miami Thomas Wenski in an email statement.
For Belen Jesuit Preparatory School in West Miami-Dade, the news of a Jesuit pope brought pride and a new challenge.
“It calls us to a higher level of performance, it’s something that engages us into a higher level of responsibility,” said President of the School Father Pedro Suarez, who said some of his students asked for a week of vacation.
But it’s the Jesuit pride that stands out most among the students. As they received the news during school hours, many jumped in joy.
“You have to understand a Jesuit is very different from a regular priest, a Jesuit is more personal,” said student Jose Sirven. “I think that’s the direction the church needs to go to, a more personal direction. You need to have linkage with your people, and I think that’s what’s going to happen.”
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