Excitement builds for Pope Francis' first U.S. visit

KUSA - Pope Francis will make his first trip to the United States in just two days.

His papacy is full of firsts, including being the only pontiff from South America. A Centennial woman from the pope's home country is excited for the historic trip.

In Cristina Jeffords' home, she has special items on her mantel.

"She is La Virgin de la Medalla Milagrosa," she said as she held a statue of the Virgin Mary.

She also has a cross that was made in Argentina, her native country. Jeffords knew of the pope before he was known to the world as Francis.

"Padre Bergoglio. Jorge Mario Bergoglio," she said.

Bergoglio, now Pope Francis is the leader of a billion Catholics around the world. She never met him, but feels a close connection because they're both from the same city, Buenos Aires.

"He's a wonderful ambassador to my country, so it's a privilege to call myself Argentine since he's Argentine,"Jeffords said with a laugh.

She is a devout Catholic and doubted she would ever see a Latin American pope.

"Being the first Spanish speaking (pope) for us is really big. There's such a huge community of Spanish speaking people in the world that's it's great for us to be represented by him. That connection is phenomenal," said Jeffords.

Besides being the first native Spanish-speaking pontiff, Francis is also the first Jesuit pope.

"I went into the corner of my office and did my happy dance. I couldn't believe it. There's never been a Jesuit Holy Father before, ever," said Fr.John Fitzgibbons, the president of Regis University.

Fr. Fitzgibbons is also a Jesuit priest. He said a requirement of their order is to take a vow never to strive for promotion.

"It's only the Holy Father who can release that Jesuit from that vow," he explained. "And it was the Holy Father, John Paul II, who invited him to consider this kind of leadership ministry within the Church."

The pope is popular with Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Many attribute that to his humility. Rather than living in the papal palace, he resides in the guest house. Fr. Fitzgibbons says that goes back to Francis' days in Argentina as he started out as a young Jesuit priest.

"Because community life keeps you real, it keeps you humble. When I go home to the Jesuit community here, I'm not the president of the university, I'm just one of the guys," said Fitzgibbons.

Although Jeffords and her family can't see the Pope during his visit to Washington D.C., New York and Philadelphia, she likes that the excitement is growing for the Pope's first trip to the U.S.

"Such a role model that the world needs so much that we all want to relate to him, right? Whether we speak Spanish or not," she said.

(© 2015 KUSA)


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