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Area Catholics rejoice at election of Pope Francis

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WINONA, Minn. (KTTC) -- Like any Wednesday service in Winona, everything seemed typical, but the day had much more in store.

It was a congregation of just more than 50, only this time, something would change  Barry Perrat a Protestant convert, said a prayer that a new pope would be selected.  "All of us have the privilege of praying for this," he said.  "I mean we're part of this."

He explained The Pope, whoever it may be, is a very influential person.  "Benedict was really a major force in my conversion," he said.  "And so I have the utmost respect for him."

Nonetheless, after 7 years, Pope Benedict XVI stepped down.

"It was one of those moments where you have to place your trust in the Holy Spirit who guides the church and leads it," said Father Jason Kern.  "And so we knew that he would only do what's right for the church."

On Wednesday, the church sought guidance. "Even though I have a full day scheduled, as soon as we find out the white smoke is coming from the chimney, we'll call running to find out through the news and whoever else, that God has chosen to be the next pope," said Kern.

It was then, just after service, thousands of miles away in the rain and the 40 degree weather, a smoke stack could be seen all across the world.

Like millions around the globe, a small groups began to convene in front of the nearest television.

Nearly an hour later it happened.  A new pope emerged on the balcony of the Vatican.

"I don't know what to think it's exciting."

Jorge Mario Bergoglio, an Argentinean Archbishop self-delcared as Pope Francis I

"Just imagine he took Francis' name that voices care and compassion for the poor," said Monsignor Richard Colletti.  "It's quite amazing that he's the first Jesuit pope."

With more than 100,000 people flooding St. Peter's Square, the importance of the decision stretches far beyond the walls of the Vatican.  "Coming into the Catholic church I started to realize how important the Holy Father is," said Perrat.

Perrat's prayers were answered on this anything but typical Wednesday service.

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