Students hold high hopes for new pope

By Matt Porter

March 13, 2013 Updated Mar 13, 2013 at 7:22 PM EDT

Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) It was a superbowl-like atmosphere as students watched the announcement of the new pope.

Eyes focused on two TV screens as they waited for the new pontiff Pope Francis I to emerge from behind a white curtain to a ledge overlooking a packed crowd at Saint Peter's Square in Vatican City.

Eighth-grader Ann Marie Wilhem clutched a friend's shoulder patting it feverishly as she watched the papal announcement.

"I feel very excited about having a new pope," Wilhelm said, "Because it's a very new experience to me. When the last pope was elected, I was only a really little kid. It's a good experience to have right now."

Teacher Patrick Monachino had prepared his students by having them put together presentations on many of the "candidate cardinals." However, his class didn't expect Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio from Argentina.

He said his class couldn't contain themselves when the first announcement came.

"There's so much excitement, we had kids jumping up and down," Monachino said. "The teacher across the hall came in and said, is there white smoke, yup. And it was really exciting."

Sophomore Maura Ingraham was excited, although she had hoped an American would be selected.

"I was hoping Cardinal O'Malley would be pope," Ingraham said. "I was hoping for an American pope, but that's just me."

Most students had high expectations for the new pontiff.

Senior Austin Cadore said the pope needs to focus on reuniting the Church.

"I'm hoping he'll be more proactive in tackling those scandals that have been plaguing the Catholic Church," Cadore said.

Meanwhile, junior Madeline Arnold wants Pope Francis I to help the Church embrace the future.

"I feel like the next pope needs to definitely modernize the Catholic Church and bring it to the 21st century," Arnold said.

Pope Francis I is the third pope in a row not to come from Italy, and the first non-European pope in more than 1,000 years.

The Pontiff enters the Church when many Catholics, including students, have high expectations.