New Zealand reaction to the election of Jorge Bergoglio as the first pontiff from the Americas and the first from outside Europe in more than a millennium.


Father Michael Gielen, a New Zealand priest studying in Rome, said the atmosphere at the Vatican was jubilant.

Fr Gielen waited in the piazza for an hour as the crowd swelled for Pope Francis' first public speech, which was delivered in Italian and Latin.

"The most beautiful thing was he said `Can you please bless me before I bless you'. That was amazing," Fr Gielen said.


"Amazing. It's amazing. The reaction is one of shock because he's Argentinian."

Fr Gielen said he hoped Pope Francis would bring "that South American zeal and fervour" to the role.

He said he didn't believe the Pope to be "very" conservative, as some media reports have indicated.

"For me it doesn't matter, as long as he loves us. It's always important to me [that he is] a father figure. That's the way I see it," Fr Gielen said.

As he headed for dinner to celebrate the news, Fr Gielen said the streets of Rome were alive with excitement.

"It's wonderful to see the faith is so alive. There's so much joy."


Monsignor Bernard Kiely, of Auckland's St Patrick's Cathedral, received a simple text from a friend on his way to church this morning announcing "we have a pope".

It was an exciting time for all Catholics and the start of a new direction for the church, Monsignor Kiely said.


"I'm just delighted that we've moved on from the uncertainty but also thrilled to see the church head in a new direction."

"He sounds like a really wonderful man, a man who's had his 'hands-on' in his life as a priest and as a bishop.

"And of course the South Americans, the Latin Americans will be thrilled, indeed, that one of theirs has been elected."

Monsignor Kiely said the new direction included the religion branching out from Europe.

"There's a good proportion of the church in the southern hemisphere and to have someone like Pope Francis [who will] be mindful of the particular cultural context as well as our treasured heritage as he moves forward, I think he will be aware of different issues, different needs. We believe that really the hand of God is at work ... in the choice."

Monsignor Kiely said Pope Francis had taken his name from one of the religion's "most-loved saints".

"[Saint Francis] had this profound and deep respect for humankind."

* More reaction to follow