Argentinians in Indiana proud of Pope Francis

Pope Francis
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The installation of Pope Francis is especially meaningful for his fellow Argentinians living in central Indiana.

Francis is the first pope ever from Latin America, which has one of the fastest-growing Catholic populations in the world.

Rolando Meninato, who moved to Indianapolis for a job with Dow AgroSciences a year-and-a-half ago, said having an Argentinian as pope "has brought out a lot of religious feeling in a lot of people and the pride in having one of your own being the pope, which is almost difficult to say."

While Meninato wasn't able to watch Tuesday's Mass at St. Peter's Basilica (his wife recorded it for him to watch later) he said he was thrilled to have a fellow Argentinian as pope, thrilled for his country.

"For the first time here, we're at least in the paper and on the front page of the paper," he smiled.

But even after today, it's still sinking in. In fact, just a few years ago while in Buenos Aires, Meninato attended a Mass celebrated by the future pontiff.

"You don't think this (person) is going to be pope. It sounds so remote," he said.

Alex Mirkin, a realtor, is another native Argentinian living in Indianapolis, also with many friends and family back home.

"It's very exciting. It's fun to receive all these calls and my family is certainly very happy and proud," Mirkin said.

He too sees the election of Francis as momentous on several levels.

"It's good to have someone who understands poverty and what Latin America is going through," he said.

Mirkin said he appreciates the humility and compassion Francis has shown for the poor and forgotten, his willingness to be among the people. But he'd also like to see some major changes within the Catholic Church.

"I'm hopeful, but I don't think there are going to be any earth-shattering reforms. I'm talking about ordaining women, gays, etc.," he said.

But on this day, Mirkin and Meninato were happy to simply relish the moment, to celebrate a new Pope and a fellow Argentinian.

"There is one more coincidence. He and I are from the same soccer club, so pray for the soccer club, too, down there," Meninato laughed, noting that Francis did play soccer as a young man and stayed connected to the club even as archbishop.