How Pope Francis could expand the Bay area Catholic Church - FOX 13 News

How Pope Francis could expand the Bay area Catholic Church

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Pope Francis celebrated his first mass in the Sistine Chapel Thursday. The cardinals who elected him were also there.

He is now leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics. He is also the first pontiff from the new world and the first Jesuit to lead the church.

His humility and focus on serving the poor has already inspired Catholics in Tampa Bay. They say the more they learn about him, the more they like him.

"It just seems to me this is what we need at this time for the church, and what it is really all about -- taking care of our brothers and sisters," said Jeanie Fitzsimmons-Brown. She reflected on Pope Francis's potential impact outside Sacred Heart church in downtown Tampa.

LINK: Who is Pope Francis?

"He's what our country needs, what the church needs, what the world needs," she said.

Within ten years, church leaders say Hispanics will make up 35 percent of the Catholic Church here in Tampa Bay.

Pope Francis could drive those numbers up. His humility and focus on the poor could pay off for the church.

"That's the kind of pope we should have -- someone humble with people, and not into ostentatious things," said Alejandra Marin of Tampa.

The church needs a pope who will inspire young people, and he certainly seemed to do so at Jesuit High School Wednesday: student leapt to their feet when they learned the new pope is a Jesuit.

LINK: For Jesuit students and priests, a moment to remember

He is the first Jesuit pope, an order of priests known as intellectuals, who have quite an independent streak.

And over time, he could have a big influence on the Catholic Church in Tampa Bay. Vatican watchers say this will a very different kind of pope.

"He is a man who lives a very simple lifestyle. He takes his vow of poverty very seriously, he refused to live in the bishop's palace, he moved to a very simple apartment, cooked his own meals and he didn't want the chauffeur driven limousine that the bishop normally had. He takes the bus to work," said Father Thomas Reese, a Jesuit priest and analyst for the National Catholic Reporter.

Bishop Robert Lynch leads the Diocese of St. Petersburg. He said Pope Francis could regain lost trust after scandals that have rocked the nation, and inspire positive change by leading through example.

Lynch also said if you give the impression you're somehow isolated from challenges of daily living, people will tune you out. But they will follow somebody they believe shares their life and their ups and their downs.

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