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South Carolina Latinos Rejoice Over New Pope

10:06 PM, Mar 17, 2013   |    comments
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Columbia, SC (WLTX) -- Pope Francis is not only changing the Catholic church, but local communities as well.

"Our presence in the church and in the world is getting more and more important," Father Emilio Sototmayor said.

Sotomayor is from Spain and is used to seeing Popes elected out of Europe, but he's a fan of the sudden shift to the Americas. 

"The center of the High Catholic Church is no more in Europe. It's not in Italy, it's not in Rome, it's here in America. That's great for us," he said.

According to the Vatican almost half of all Catholics live in Latin America. And although they are the majority, he didn't think that the new pope would reflect that figure.

"We were not expecting that because of tradition, it has been a European has been a Pope for the last centuries. But for us it's really surprising that a person born in the Americas has been elected as the Pope," Sotomayor said.

In 2011, the census reported that only 5 percent of South Carolina's population is Hispanic. While the Pew Forum says Catholics account for 22 percent in the U.S.

"We're a very small community here, but we are the biggest church in the world," he said.

Other than Pope Francis representing Latinos around the world, he is also representing a new way of thinking.

"We need a new strength, a new impulse," he said. "And thank the Lord and thanks to the Holy Spirit we have got it."

The Pew Forum says that 39 percent of Latino Southerners are Catholic.

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