MINNEAPOLIS - At Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, religious studies quickly turned into a lesson in history on Wednesday.
Joe Simmons' 10th graders grilled him on how a pope is picked, but as they watched Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio transform into Pope Francis they began to understand.
"My class got very silent and quiet and we were sort of praying like, the people in Rome for our new Holy Father," Simmons said.
When the silence broke and Pope Francis spoke again students like Kiara Martinez, whose family is from Honduras, still couldn't believe it.
"We were all shocked at first. We're like, he's speaking Spanish, we don't even have to translate it for us," the 10th grader said.
Pope Francis is the first Pontiff from South America, which has one of the largest Catholic populations in the world. At Cristo Rey, where 71 percent of students are Latino, the move gave hope about the future of the church.
"I can't believe it," exclaimed Alejandra Hall, who works at the school.
Hall grew up just blocks away from Pope Francis' cathedral in Buenos Aires.
"It was so wonderful. I was so happy because he is so great, a good and holy man," Hall said.
Spanish teacher and Argentina native Monica Morana said Pope Francis' election already speaks volumes about where the church is headed.
"I think we need someone who will understand and especially for us, for our students, to identify with someone in the church," Morana said.
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