Latin America has more Catholics than any region of the world
This is the most obvious reason. <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2013/03/13/world/americas/latin-american-pope/?hpt=hp_t1" target="_blank">Latin America is home to 480 million Latinos, according to CNN</a> -- making it the region with the most Catholics in the world. <a href="http://www.pewforum.org/Christian/Catholic/Geography-of-the-Conclave.aspx" target="_blank">Some 39 percent of Catholics live in Latin America,</a> well ahead of the 24 percent that live in Europe, where all popes in recent history have been selected from.
It’s time for the Church to diversify
The position of Pope has been held exclusively by white European men in recent history, despite the fact that they are a dwindling segment of practicing Catholics.
Latinos Are Kind Of Like Europeans
For a two-millennia institution that accepts change slowly, Latin America makes it easy for the Church to take baby steps toward the reality that Europeans make up less than a quarter of the religion’s adherents. Millions of Europeans, including Pope Francis’ Italian-born father, immigrated to Latin America, giving it a more intimate relationship with Vatican City than some other regions of the world.
Latinos are helping keep the number of Catholics in the United States steady
<a href="http://abcnews.go.com/ABC_Univision/latinos-save-american-catholicism/story?id=17491901" target="_blank">Catholicism has experienced the “greatest net losses”</a> of any major religion in the United States in recent years, ABC/Univision News reports. The decline has only been slowed by the influx of Latino immigrants and Hispanic population growth.
A Latino Pope may help boost Catholic enthusiasm in Latin America
Latin America may be the Catholic Church’s world stronghold, but it’s also seen dropping numbers in some countries. More than <a href="http://www.laht.com/article.asp?ArticleId=390745&CategoryId=14091" target="_blank">1,000 catholics left the Catholic Church every day over the last decade in Mexico</a>, according to Spanish newswire EFE. In Central America and Brazil, evangelical churches won converts in recent years. Picking a Pope from the region may help the Church ramp up enthusiasm for the region’s most dominant religion.
The Catholic Church made history on Wednesday, picking the first Latino Pope in the institution's history.
Argentina's Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected Pope Francis -- a recognition of the leading role Latin America should play in the institution, given that it's the region with the most practicing Catholics in the world.
Some 39 percent of the world's Catholics hail from the region. Brazil and Mexico have the world's first- and second-largest Catholic populations, respectively, according to CNN.
Francis may be able to give the Church some insight into how to keep its numbers growing. The 76-year-old Pope is also the first Jesuit priest to hold the papacy, earning a reputation in Argentina for focusing on social outreach, according to the Associated Press.
For many in Latin America, not to mention Latinos living in the United States, this day is long overdue.
Check out five reasons why electing Jorge Mario Bergoglio to become the first Latino Pope was a smart move for the Catholic Church. Let us know what you think in the comments.