Church leaders across Northampton have welcomed the election of the new Pope.
The Cardinal of Buenos Aires Jorge Mario Bergoglio was last night named as the new pope - the first from Latin America.
The 76-year-old, who becomes Pope Francis, was regarded as a surprise choice and is the first pope to be chosen from outside Europe for more than a millennium.
His historic election was signalled by white smoke billowing from the conclave of cardinals meeting in the Sistine Chapel at around 6pm last night.
Members of the Catholic church attended masses across Northampton this morning and parish priests have since welcomed his election.
Parish priest at Sacred Heart Parish, in Weston Favell, Rev Francis Calnan welcomed the new Pope.
He said: “We are delighted. It is really good news.
“He has the name as myself, which is nice. He is quite old but you can do a lot in a short time.”
He added: “I think changes are needed. The doctrine can’t change but there are certain things in terms of the administration that could change. I am not saying he will have a magic wand but a new broom, so to speak, could do a lot of good.
“But we will wait and see.”
The Rt Revd Donald Allister, the Bishop of Peterborough whose diocese covers Northants, Rutland and Peterborough and who is also a member of the Church of England’s national Council for Christian Unity, released this statement last night on hearing the news of the election of Pope Francis:
“I am pleased that the Roman Catholic Church has a new leader and I pray that he will have wisdom as he takes office.
“I look forward to continuing to work with Roman Catholic leaders locally, and nationally through the Council for Christian Unity.”
Thousands last night gathered at the Vatican, cheering and applauding as they waited for Pope Francis, the son of an immigrant railway worker, to emerge on the balcony facing St Peter’s Square.
The new head of the church’s 1.2 billion Catholics, Latin America’s first pope, appeared just over an hour after the fifth ballot ended with a smile and a simple “Good evening”.
Addressing the joyous masses gathered in the rain, he said “the world should set off on a path of love and fraternity”.
He added: “I would like to thank you for your welcome, the community of Rome, it’s brotherhood, I thank you.
“Above all, I would like to pray for Pope Benedict XVI.”
World leaders applauded the election, with President Barack Obama offering “warm wishes” and adding that the appointment spoke to the strength and vitality of the Americas.
Prime Minister David Cameron also issued a statement of congratulations.
It was “a momentous day for the 1.2 billion Catholics around the world”, Mr Cameron said.