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Election Of First Native Spanish-Speaking Pope Inspires Md. Latinos

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Derek Valcourt 370x278 Derek Valcourt
Derek Valcourt began working at WJZ in September 2002. His first major...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The pope’s election carries a huge significance to members of Maryland’s Latino community.

Derek Valcourt takes a look at the excitement this pope is generating.

Latinos make up the largest portion of Catholics, yet this is the first time the head of the church hails from Latin America.

In Buenos Aires the celebrations lasted well into the night.

For them, the election of Argentinian native Pope Francis brings a major sense of inclusion and representation. The church’s leader now hails from the region with the highest Catholic population.

Latinos make up 39 percent of all Catholics–that’s more than Europeans, Asians, Africans or North Americans. As Latin Americans cheered the pope’s selection, so did Latinos right here in Baltimore.

“And we cry. We cry ‘Our new pope from Latin America!’ That’s incredible,” said Maria Luque.

Maria Luque teaches at Baltimore’s dual language Archbishop Borders School, where many of the students are Latino.

“He is the first Hispanic pope in the history of the church,” she explained to her students.

Here a Latin American pope isn’t just a lesson, it’s an inspiration.

“It represents who we are in the Catholic community,” said student Nicole Fortune.

“It shows that we also can do great things,” said Rian Lopez.

“It’s a sense of pride, but it’s a sense of change, of future, of hope,” Luque said.

Luque and many others believe the pope’s election signals the growing influence of Latinos in the Catholic Church community.

“This is what we are waiting for, it is incredible. It is really, really exciting,” she said.

It is widely expected that the pontiff will soon visit Latin America.

The inauguration mass for Pope Francis will be held in St. Peter’s Square on Tuesday. The Vatican says no tickets are required and everyone is invited.

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