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College student from Killdeer witnesses pope election process in Rome

BISMARCK -- Students from a North Dakota college who are studying in Rome got an up-close look at the historic election of the first pope from South America.

"To see it in real life is incredible," said Shane Dukart, a business and Catholic studies student from Killdeer.

Dukart is one of 20 students at the University of Mary in Bismarck studying at the school's campus in Rome this semester. They said in a statement that it is exciting to be in the city during an historic time for the Roman Catholic Church.

"I knew this was going to be a great four months of my life," said Lindsey Stein, of Hankinson, who is majoring in nursing with a minor in Catholic studies. "Being in the heart of the church and being with my fellow brother and sister saints that are all over this city during this historic time for the church."

Cardinals on Wednesday elected Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, the former archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, to replace the retired Pope Benedict XVI. The new Pope Francis is the first Jesuit pope and the first non-European chosen since the Middle Ages.

His election is recognition of the changing face of Catholicism, Bishop Paul Swain, of the Catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls, S.D., said during a news conference, the Argus Leader newspaper reported.

"The growth of the church is in Latin and South America, and Africa and Asia, particularly," he said. "It's a recognition on the part of the cardinals, many of whom are from Europe . that it's important that there be a pope who understands the dynamics of the whole world."

Bishop David Kagan, of the Catholic Diocese of Bismarck, said in a statement that the new pontiff has "an excellent reputation as a priest, a bishop and a cardinal."

He also noted that Pope Francis will be the one who appoints a new bishop for the Fargo diocese, a position that has been vacant since former Bishop Samuel Aquila left in June 2012 to become archbishop of the Denver archdiocese.

Karin Hillstrom, who lives in Fargo, grew up in Buenos Aires.

"When I heard about the news, I turned on the TV and I heard about it, I just started crying because I felt a great joy," she told KVLY-TV.

Juan Bonilla, president of the Sioux Falls Diversity Council, told KSFY-TV that the selection of a pope from Argentina is important to Latinos worldwide.

"Right now, the Latinos in the United States are over 15 million, so we are the biggest minority right now in the United States. Here in Sioux Falls, we are more than 22,000 Latinos and we doubled our presence from 2010 to 2011," he said. "So having a new pope who is Latino, makes it easier for us to be heard and accepted."