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      Northern Michigan church leaders react to new pope

      "It was beautiful just to hear the excitement that was coming from St. Peter's Square and it was an excitement that I felt in my heart, too," said Bishop Bernard Hebda with the Diocese of Gaylord.

      Massive crowds gathered to see history made on the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica.

      "It was beautiful just to hear the excitement that was coming from St. Peter's Square and it was an excitement that I felt in my heart, too," said Bishop Bernard Hebda with the Diocese of Gaylord.

      76-year-old Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina is now Pope Francis... the pope of many firsts. He is the first Jesuit pope, the first to take the name Francis, and here in northern Michigan, there is much excitement, because he is the first pope elected in the Western Hemisphere... a fond surprise for many.

      "It seems to me, my brothers have chosen one who is from far away, but here I am," said newly appointed Pope Francis, from the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica.

      "Knowing that we have a new leader for the church, certainly the element of surprise is something that excites people," said Hebda.

      115 Catholic Cardinals from around the world formed the secretive conclave electing the successor to Benedict the 16th. After five ballots, the choice of Pope Francis, who became a Cardinal in 2001 and reportedly received the second highest number of votes in the 2005 papal election. Known as a humble man, a cloud of white smoke represents the new leader, Pope Francis, of 1.2 billion Catholics now embracing him around the world, and back here at home.

      "In union with Catholics throughout the world, I rejoice at the election of Pope Francis as Successor of Peter and universal pastor," said Hebda. "The extraordinary gifts and experiences of our new pope suggest that the Holy Spirit has long been preparing him to assume this awesome responsibility. The election of such a zealous pastor, and his generous response to the Lord's call, are wonderful reminders of God's providential care for his church. It will be exciting to see the course that our new Holy Father will set for his flock in fulfilling the mission that Christ entrusted to the Church twenty centuries ago. I look forward to the opportunity to convey to Pope Francis not only my loyalty but also the prayers and affection of the faithful of Gaylord."

      As it happens, Bishop Hebda was previously scheduled to go to Rome for a board meeting next week, so it is possible he might be there for the Installation of Pope Francis. He will certainly be carrying the prayers of the faithful of the Diocese of Gaylord with him.