Catholics in Winnipeg were both elated and surprised after hearing Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina has been selected as the Catholic Church's new leader.

Bergoglio, who will be known as Pope Francis, was elected on Wednesday by fellow cardinals during a conclave that began Tuesday at the Vatican.

Francis becomes the first Pope from the Americas and the first from outside Europe in more than a millennium.

He succeeds Benedict XVI, whose surprise resignation in February prompted this week's conclave.

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Parishioners gather at Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion in St. Boniface for a special mass celebrating the selection of Pope Francis on Wednesday evening. (Aadel Haleem/CBC)

On Wednesday evening, about 75 parishioners gathered at Nuestra Señora de la Asunción in St. Boniface for a special mass celebrating the selection of Pope Francis.

"[On] television, I see today the humility of the new Pope. It's very nice," said Rev. Jorge Mario de los Rios Londoño, who had met Bergoglio several years ago in Brazil.

Raul Serda, who left Argentina about 15 years ago, said he was pleasantly surprised to learn the new pontiff hails from his home country.

"It is a big day for everybody in our community," he said.

"I'm very happy because I'm from Argentina. Obviously, our heart is full [of] joy."

'Such an impressive man'

James Weisgerber, the Archbishop of Winnipeg, said he met Bergoglio in 2001.

"That was my one contact with him, and I've always thought of him as a friend after that. I mean, he's such an impressive man and such a warm man," he said.

"He is very intelligent. He listens very carefully. He's so respectful of other people's points of view."

Earlier on Wednesday, the bells at St. Boniface Cathedral rang as soon as white smoke emerged from a chimney on the roof of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, indicating to the world that the cardinals had elected the 266th pontiff.

"I'm very happy. It's one of the greatest joys of my life," Sister Yvonne Jamault of the Soeurs du Sauveur told CBC News on Wednesday afternoon, as she watched Bergoglio's introduction on television.

Jamault says she sees change coming with the new pontiff.

"I'm quite sure, for one thing, it's going to change our hearts — open them up to the needy, to the poor, the unloved," she said.

Roldan Sevillano, who watched the papal announcement with his mother at home, said he was a bit surprised with the selection.

"It wasn't a Pope that any of us were expecting. I was personally rooting for our cardinal, Marc Ouellet," Sevillano said, referring to the Canadian cardinal who was perceived to be one of the front-runners.

"But at the end of the day, the Lord gives you what you need, and we're very happy with this blessing."