By Sylvia Lopez

VATICAN CITY ( — Moments after the world was introduced to the new pontiff, LA Cardinal Roger Mahony spoke to CBS2’s Sylvia Lopez exclusively about the selection process and what the first Latin American pope will mean to the church.

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For weeks, Cardinal Mahony has tweeted and blogged his thoughts, but he was unable to talk due to a media ban. After the conclave and a celebration Wednesday, he discussed his feelings about the new pontiff with Lopez.

“I am ecstatic. Absolutely ecstatic. In fact, I really have a hard time sitting down. I want to stand up and cheer,” Mahony said.

The LA cardinal believes the selection of the first pope from Latin America will have a major impact on the church.

“This is unimaginable. The impact this is going to have. Particularly, of course, in Latin America. It’s the first time we ever had a southern hemisphere pope. It’s just extraordinary. When we reached 77 (votes), everybody started applauding, because they knew that that was the number. And we had a new pope.”

Lopez asked Mahony about his controversial presence among the voting College of Cardinals. A large contingent of Catholics in Los Angeles thought, due to the sex abuse scandal, that Mahony should sit out the vote.

He defended his role and said the LA Archdiocese was now one of the safest institutions for children because of his work. Mahony also insisted the public outcry against him was due to misinformation.

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“Much of the criticism comes from ignorance of not knowing what has happened. And the extraordinary efforts we have taken — we have passed every compliance audit with flying colors. And I dare, find somebody who can tell me what have we not done yet, please let me know…we’ll do it.”

When Jose Bergoglio realized he was the new pope, Mahony says everyone applauded, but the former cardinal from Argentina really didn’t say much of anything.

Lopez quoted Mahony as saying Pope Francis wasn’t terribly expressive or emotional. He just said he accepted and that he wanted to be named for St. Francis of Assisi, reported Lopez.

Mahony believes naming himself Francis is keeping with the new pope’s humble demeanor. He said he had been friends with Pope Francis for a long time, but they had never served on a committee together. Still, he feels he knows him well and likes him very much.

Lopez asked Mahony what he believed this pope’s mission would be. Mahony said it was probably too early to tell, but more than likely he will be helping the poor and those who don’t have a voice.

Hear more from Mahony in an interview with KNX1070 NEWSRADIO.

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