Bishop David Zubik of the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh has never met the new pope, but he is impressed with his reputation for being pastoral, prayerful, spiritual, warm and humble.
Among the cardinals who had votes in the papal election were three with Pittsburgh ties: Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, D.C., and former bishop in Pittsburgh; Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston in Texas; and Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, archbishop of Boston.
Bishop Zubik said each of the three has a "pastoral heart," adding, "That says something about what they probably did in terms of the vote for the Holy Father, choosing somebody who has a very strong pastoral heart."
At a news conference Wednesday at St. Paul Seminary, Bishop Zubik said the choice of someone from the Americas and the name of Francis also are "unprecedented."
But he believes the quality of the person was more important than geography in the choice.
"We can't deny the importance that he is from the Americas and from a part of the world where Catholicism is growing, but I think the primary piece was not to choose somebody based on geography but based on their qualities and what the needs of the church are," he said.
Of the choice of name, he said it speaks of simplicity and living the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Bishop Zubik noted some of the traits of the new pope, including living modestly and asking Argentinians to donate to the poor instead of going to Rome to see him become a cardinal. He noted the new pope used "simple" rather than formal Italian and bowed down before the people.
Given the pope's background, Bishop Zubik said he expects the social service ministries of the church will get increased attention.
Greensburg Bishop Lawrence E. Brandt said that the election of Pope Francis represents the evolution of the church into an international figure, which began under Pope Benedict XVI.
Pope Francis hails from the area of the world with the highest concentration of Catholics, Bishop Brandt said.
Pope Francis studied psychology and chemistry, has a degree in philosophy, wrote books on spirituality and meditation, and taught at colleges and seminary, Bishop Brandt said.
"He is a people's person," he said. "I'm told he rides the bus to work ... and cooks his own meals."
Bishop Brandt said he feels the new pope will be a strong proponent of the evangelization started by Pope Benedict XVI.
"I think he brings administrative, spiritual and intellectual gifts," he said.