Many Edmonton Catholics say they are excited for the future of their church following the election of the first pope from the western hemisphere.

"It's exciting right because all of a sudden we get to explore someone that.. a new icon, a new image of what it means to be a Christian and people are going to look at that and be transformed," said Father Stefano Penna.

"They'll be thrilled and especially in South America."

Some were disappointed that Quebec Cardinal Marc Ouellet, who was seen as a leading contender to succeed Pope Benedict XVI, was not chosen.

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Edmonton's Father Stefano Penna calls the choice remarkable, noting that Bergoglio is also the first Jesuit Pope. (CBC)

But Penna said the election of Argentine Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who will take the name Francis, is an unprecedented one: he will be the first Jesuit Pope, as well as the first the Pope from the Americas.

Penna thinks that might rekindle some interest in the church.

"This is just a remarkable...a remarkable moment."

Local worshippers were mixed on the direction that the 76-year-old pontiff should take the church.

Many, like Dan Forester, want to see the new Pope continue the long-held traditions of the Roman Catholic Church.

"I'm hoping the Pope will stay and fight for that and not give in to the secular pressures that are on the church now."

But Grade 9 student Chelsie Williams hopes Bergoglio will bring some change to the institution.

"I think priests should be allowed to get married," she said. 

"That's just my opinion, but I think he's going to change a couple of things for better."

Catholic historian Indre Cuplinskas said those who are hoping that the Pope will make drastic changes to the church may be disappointed, as he is considered a fairly conservative member of the church.