By Pat Ciarrocchi

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Seeing a simple man asking for the blessing of the people is striking religious pilgrims as the mark of a new era.

Pope Francis is a man of firsts and that’s getting the Catholic world’s attention.

“Seeing the Pope come out and being blessed by him was probably the greatest moment of my life so far,” said Laura D’Angelo, a Temple University student, studying in Rome.

Who would think that a 76-year-old man, dressed in white, wearing a simple cross could illicit a “greatest moment.” But it did.

Laura and her twin sister, Renee had their eyes fixed on the Sistine Chapel chimney for hours, until that moment.

“My sister was like ‘it’s white, it’s white’ and it was just incredible.” said Laura. “I don’t even know how to explain it, but it was awesome.”

Felicia Pomon is also from Temple studying in Rome and ran through the streets toward St. Peter’s when the smoke turned white.

“People here are like fascinated by him and they love what he does and what he has to offer, so I think it definitely opened my eyes,” said Felicia.

Another eye opener has been the reach of social media. The Pope’s twitter account — @pontifex — has been reactivated. And the Vatican’s Facebook page is finding its place too.

Danielle McMonagle is a Villanova student, interning in the Vatican’s Office of Social Communication. Danielle’s expert insight into the ways of social media is helping spread the message, especially to young people.

“We put up a bunch of pictures of the white smoke and things like that and we were getting hundreds of likes,” said Danielle.

The “likes” came from around the world, though the English language page is the most popular.

Danielle arrived for her internship the day after Pope Benedict’s resignation. She’s witnessed the growth in the social media connections in just weeks.

The goal now is to keep it interactive.

The Vatican is on the threshold of a new era, in more ways than one.

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