Less than an hour after white smoke plumed from the Sistine Chapel, church bells called the faithful to worship at Seattle’s Scared Heart Church - among them, a true Roman Catholic. Grace Pompei, an Italian immigrant living in Seattle, heard the news and rushed to prayer.
“So fast, already! I wasn't expecting it,” she said in a thick accent. “This is such an exciting day!”
Inside, the afternoon mass brought a special prayer for the pope as he takes over at a turbulent time for the church.
“Jesus did not have an easy time of it,” said Father Mark Scheffler. “I suspect (the new Pope’s) time will not be easy, as well.”
Parishioner Larry Adams added, “We have to address these issues head on. It’s gonna be tough. It’s gonna be real tough.”
The election of Pope Francis, an Argentine known for taking public transit to work, is seen as a step forward for the church in global relations. Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain said the move signifies a greater worldwide unity.
“The cardinals are recognizing that the pope is someone who is the pastor of the universal church,” said Sartain.
Back at Sacred Heart, spirits soared, as the news spread.
“Oh, I feel elated,” beamed Alma Beecham. “The Holy Spirit just touched me!”
For others, that excitement was tempered by the acknowledgment of much work to be done by both the new shepherd and his flock.
When asked what she was going to do to celebrate, Grace Pompei said, “I'm going to confession,” without missing a beat. “I’m a good Catholic.”