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Local priests react to new pope
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MONROE - Bells were ringing Wednesday afternoon as local Catholics celebrated the election of a new pope.

Father Larry Bakke said St. Victor Church in Monroe, home of St. Clare of Assisi parish, rang its bells as soon as the new pope was named Wednesday.

"It's exciting for the church, and the world," Bakke said.

As the first pope from the western hemisphere, Pope Francis is also the first pope to choose the name Francis, taking the name after Francis of Assisi, who represents "a simple life, concern for the poor and social justice," said Bakke.

Bakke visited St. Victor's school as it was dismissing for the day. "We prayed for the new pope and the church," he said.

Father Randy Budnar of Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Darlington was watching with the students at his church's school as the puff of white smoke rose from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel and as the new pope come out to his balcony.

"My reaction is one of happiness, joy and excitement," he said.

A pope elected from the western hemisphere is "a good way to remind us that our church is a worldwide church," Budnar said. "Every county, every continent is important to the church."

The students are also "very excited, and the fourth-graders ran over to the church to ring the bells," he said.

The ringing of the church bells in recognition of the newly elected pope is "not a requirement, but you'll be hearing a lot of church bells ringing (Wednesday)," he added.