By John McDeviit, Tim Jimenez, Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The election of Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio as Pope Francis has local Catholics very excited.

As soon as the white smoke hit the air at the Vatican on Wednesday evening, bells began ringing at many Catholic churches in the Delaware Valley in celebration of the selection of the new leader of the Roman Catholic Church, including in Center City, where many were hopeful.

“All eyes are really on the Roman Catholic Church right now, many people are referring to it as a failing institution and I firmly believe that is not the case,” said one man. “With this new pope, even though things may be a little grim, if he can show that the face of the Roman Catholic Church is strong and even though he may be old, it’s still a contemporary mind, I find that this could be a wonderful, wonderful happening.”

“I hope they bring the church into the 21st century,” said one woman.

Others say they don’t want to see Pope Francis bring too much change, that they like the way things are. But all say they will be praying that the new pope will lead the church in the right direction.

Terrie Nguyen was staying in a Center City hotel with her family. She’s from Houston, Texas, and as soon as she saw white smoke on TV, she made her way across the street to the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul.

“I am so grateful that we have a new leader,” she said. “I just went in and prayed for him and wished him the best.”

Also making his way in for prayer and reflection was William O’Brien.

“I hope he works for peace, O’Brien said. “Peace and justice and just bringing love, God’s love.”

Both used the term “outside the box” on the College of Cardinals’ decision to pick someone from Argentina. As for Pope Francis being 76 years old, both agreed that is not a factor and they have faith in his experience and his leadership.

The election of Pope Francis marks not only the first Latin American to be named pontiff, but its also brings the first Jesuit to the papacy. The news caused an extra measure of excitement at St. Joseph’s University, a Jesuit college.

Father Dan Joyce says he is an intellectual, for which the Jesuits are known, but he also has long experience as a pastor to the people of Argentina.

“It’s a wonderful thing to see someone with all that background bringing those many perspectives to, now, the Vatican and the world leadership of the church.

Father Joyce says he and the other clergy at St. Joe’s feel a personal connection to the Pope Francis.

“He has a nephew who’s a Jesuit who I worked with. He came and worked with us in Camden back in the 1990’s. (He’s) a wonderful man, also a very good intellectual.”

La Salle University professor, Father Frank Berna says the selection of a Cardinal with a reputation for living simply and humbly is an embrace of the values espoused in the Second Vatican Council.

“The church is to be a church of the poor, with a concern for the poor, that speaks for the rights of the poor, that stands with the poor and, as I continue to look at the council, we have so much more of it yet to live and this, to me, is a vision of the church that did come out of the council.”

Father Berna believes choosing a man who has shown his concern for the poor helps with the church’s credibility.

“Credibility doesn’t come with a lot of pomp, it doesn’t come with huge institutions. The credibility really has to come from a genuineness about the person and their ability to connect with ordinary people.”

Top Content On CBSPhilly

Watch & Listen LIVE