By SCOTT TRUDEAU
When white smoke billowed from the Sistine Chapel to announce that Catholic cardinals had chosen a new pope, Grade 8 students at Penticton's Holy Cross School were hoping it would be a Canadian.
Instead, the conclave selected Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina since 1998 and a cardinal since 2001.
Nolan Keilty and Francesca Graham offered a couple of thoughts Thursday on what it means to their generation.
"I think it's important for kids to learn about religion and where their religion comes from and who the pope is, especially if they're Roman Catholic," said Graham.
Keilty noted that the selection of Bergoglio, now known as Pope Francis, is significant because he's the first non-European pope in hundreds of years and the first pope who is Latin American.
He added that kids his age should pay attention to the new pope because he is head of the Roman Catholic Church and will make decisions on how the church operates into the future.
Michele Cumberland, a teacher at Holy Cross, said she and her students discussed Pope Francis as well as Benedict the XVI, the former pope who resigned in February.
"In Grade 8 we've been following closely the word from the Vatican," said Cumberland.
She said they witnessed black smoke coming from the Sistine Chapel earlier on Wednesday and then at about 11:30 a.m. they received word a new pope was selected.
Later in the day some students gathered to watch Pope Francis emerge from behind the curtains onto the balcony at St. Peter's Basilica in his first public appearance.
On Thursday, Pope Francis led his first mass in the Vatican City.
Bishop John Corriveau of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Nelson, Order of Capuchin Friars Minor, said he was excited when Pope Francis' face was revealed.
"The one thing I suspended was who it was going to be," said Corriveau. "We're a world church. There's 1.2 billion Catholics and when you gather these together, there's outstanding candidates from all over the place so it depends what you're looking for."
He called the conclave's choice of the first non-European pope a major event in history.
In Pope Francis the Catholic Church has its first Argentinean pope.
In Latin America the church identifies itself with the poor people in society and is a popular church and is less rooted on being ritualistic.
"It is a church with a strong effort to be rooted among the people," said Corriveau, noting that was Pope Francis' focus while he was archbishop in Buenos Aires. "I think that brings a special quality to his service as pope."
Corriveau added the new pope is also a Jesuit which signifies his dedication and commitment to the universal mission of the church internationally.
"I think his presence also emphasizes that role of evangelization," he said. "That Latin American twist Ð if you think about identification with the poor and with ordinary people Ð I hope it'll bring creativity into the church."
Corriveau maintained that the church wants to be relevant in society as it relates the gospel of Jesus Christ.
"Whether or not people listen to the gospel messages is another question. We don't have control over that but we want to be able to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ with energy."