The papal honeymoon of Pope Francis continued Sunday as many Catholics attending Masses across the U.S. sang praises for the Argentine archbishop picked last week to succeed Pope Benedict XVI.
"It's exciting. He's from a new part of the world. He brings new leadership to the papacy," said Ross Brennan, 53, before Mass at St. Ann's Church in Washington, D.C. "He tries to represent the common man and bring change to the church."
After Mass at St. William Catholic Church in Walled Lake, Mich., Larry Rogers, 75, said he believes Francis "is going to be really, really good. I think he cares about the poor, and I like that."
Francis, until Wednesday known as Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio, has drawn rave reviews for championing the rights of the underprivileged in his country - and for his own humility.
As archbishop, he lived a simple life in Buenos Aires. After being elected pope, he declined a ride in the Popemobile and later checked himself out of the cardinals' hotel, even paying his own bill. That sounded good to many U.S. Catholics.
"He's humble, he's caring," said Mary South, 34, a parishioner at Christ the King Church in Des Moines. "I think he's going to be very good for the church."
"He speaks for the poor," said Kathleen Little-Bolotin, 50, at Our Lady of the Snows in Reno, Nev. "I think that's a good thing. If he just does that I'm happy."
Linette Turner, 40, a mom, substitute teacher and this Sunday a greeter at the Church of the Nativity in Spring Hill, Tenn., said she's pleased that the cardinals chose an unlikely candidate - Francis is the first Latin American and first Jesuit pope.
"It is pretty exciting that he is outside of the normal group of candidates," she said, adding that she was impressed by Pope Francis' unassuming manner. "Seeing him on the bus with the other cardinals and seeing him pay his own bill - it's neat. I think it is going to be a good experience and a good fit for our church."
U.S. churchgoers were little moved by recent allegations that Francis, as a young priest, may not have sufficiently opposed a wave of right-wing terror that swept his nation in the 1970s. Vatican spokesman Rev. Thomas Rosica has vehemently denounced any accusations regarding Francis' behavior during the time of Argentina's "Dirty War."
That seemed to work for U.S. churchgoers.
"I have faith that they were very cautious when they selected him," Turner said. "They knew who they were looking at."
At Christ the King Parish in Sioux Falls, S.D., parishioner Brian Hagan, 32, cautioned that Francis should be judged by the totality of his life and not just one part of his past. "Like anything, everyone has a past, and everyone either learns from it or they don't," Hagan said.
Lisa Marie Ruda, 44, at St. Ann's Church in Washington, also was unfazed by the issue. "I don't know enough of the history but I do know how he lives now, how he makes the right example," she said.
Ruda, like many Catholics, was more concerned with how the church handles the issue of priest sex abuse. "As a church, we need to move toward the light so the church can come out of its dark time," she said.
Nita Da, 59, a housekeeper from the Philippines said she attends church daily at St. Ann's. Like many of the estimated 75 million U.S. Catholics, Da was only looking forward.
"We're so happy to have a new pope," she said outside St. Ann's. "Everything will be OK. It is always the holy will of God."