Peruvian Priest Reflects On Argentine Pope

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HAZLETON -- Pope Francis is the first pope from Latin America in the history of the Catholic Church and there's a Catholic Church in Hazleton that has a Hispanic assistant pastor.

Fr. Victor Leon is from Peru. He's only been living in the United States for a few years. Newswatch 16 spoke to him to find out what it means to the Hispanic population to have a pope from Argentina.

Before Father Leon celebrated the noon mass at the Church of St. Gabriel in Hazleton. He told Newswatch 16 he has high hopes for the future of the Catholic Church thanks to the new Argentine pope.

"The church live a good time. This is a new experience for us," said Fr. Leon.

Fr. Leon is from Peru and has been living in Hazleton for a few years.  He celebrates Spanish masses at St. Gabriel's a few times a week.  He says in a city with as many Hispanic people as Hazleton, having a Spanish-speaking pope bodes well for those with backgrounds similar to his.

"Eso significa mucho para nosotros. Nos sentimos con una gran esperanza. Nos sentimos comfortados por este eleccion. Sentimos la prescencia de Dios mucho mas fuerte."   "This means a lot to us. We feel a greater hope. We feel comfortable with this election. We feel the presence of God more strongly."

Even non-Hispanic members of the parish say they're happy to have a Latin pope who will have a more global perspective.

"They have a rich history. We all bring something to the benefit of all humankind. We are all God's people," said Sara McNelis.

Fr. Leon says having a Latin pope is a step forward for the world`s Hispanic population.

"Estados Unidos necistan tambien abrir las puertas a los Latinos y Dios nos esta ponendo el signo. El papa es Latino."   The United States needs to open the doors to Latinos and God is giving us this sign. The pope is Latino."

Pope Francis is expected to be installed as pope next Tuesday.

Fr. Leon is gearing up for Holy Week leading up to Easter at the end of the month.