Catholics around the globe are reacting mostly positively to Pope Francis' recent remarks that the church has become too focused on "small-minded rules" on hot-button issues like homosexuality, abortion and contraceptives.
CLEVELAND - Though it was not St. Peter's Square in Vatican City, filled with tens of thousands of Catholic faithful awaiting the word on selection of a new pope, there was a Cleveland area filled with several hundred high school students watching a plume of smoke lift from the rooftop of their own school.
Students at St. Ignatius High School, near the intersection of Lorain Avenue and West 25th Street, gathered outside their historic building.
When television cameras caught the much-awaited plume of white smoke lifting from the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican, students at St. Ignatius sent aloft their own white smoke that lifted through a pipe at the top of the high school building.
"So it's a new day," said student John Fanta. "It's a good day and days are only getting better and brighter."
The students at the Catholic school cheered and embraced the selection of a cardinal from Argentina, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who chose the name Francis.
From beneath the white smoke of St. Ignatius, the students went inside their building and tuned their attention to televisions, where Pope Francis addressed the world.
The new pontiff is the first from a Latin American country.
"Getting a new pope from a different continent is great," said student Bill Wolf. "And a Jesuit and the fact they're all about service. He noted St. Ignatius is a Jesuit school.
Though they were thousands of miles from Vatican City, the students, faculty, and staff of St. Ignatius felt a spiritual and emotional tie to the throngs at St. Peter's Square. They also felt a tie to the new pope who will now lead them and a billion more Catholics throughout the world.
Pope Francis is warning that the Catholic Church's moral edifice might "fall like a house of cards" if it doesn't balance its divisive rules about abortion, gays and contraception.
Pope Francis reached out to gays on Monday, saying he wouldn't judge priests for their sexual orientation in a remarkably open and wide-ranging news conference as he returned from his first foreign trip.
Pope Francis on Friday cleared Pope John Paul II for sainthood, approving a miracle attributed to his intercession and setting up a remarkable dual canonization along with another beloved pope, John XXIII.