Pope Francis: South Florida Catholics weigh in on stances of new leader on abortion, gay marriage

Local Catholics say change is in the future

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- - Thousands of miles away from the Vatican, Catholics all across South Florida prayed on Wednesday night for the new spiritual leader of their faith.  

Pope Francis, a 78-year-old from Argentina, is the first Pope to come from outside of Europe in the modern day.

"He's Hispanic and I think that's wonderful," said Laura Gonzalez, a local Catholic.

Gonzalez, a Cuban living in West Palm Beach, thinks the ethnicity of Pope Francis will connect with Latinos in Florida.

But many Catholics on Wednesday night questioned whether the views of Pope Francis will translate to followers. 

When it comes to abortion rights, Pope Francis is pro-life.

"Perfect, because that's the way it is. Life has to be protected," said Gonzalez.

According to the Pew Research Center, self-identifying Catholics are at a 40-year low. Just 27% of Americans consider themselves strong followers according to the numbers.

Those figures are part of the reason why many are calling for a more progressive church.

Pope Francis though is considered Orthodox and is also against gay marriage.

"We have to follow what the leader does. We may have our own individual decisions, but that's, we have to get along with church practices," said Benedict Celestin, a local Catholic.

Where Pope Francis does soften his stance is when it comes to contraceptives and has said condoms are "permissible" to prevent disease.

"It's a good way of reaching out to the youth and making them understand why you have to use protection is for your health. So yeah, definitely, it's very progressive," said Elena Contreras, a local Catholic.

Where Pope Francis is expected to make changes is in how he reaches out to people across the world.

The bishop of the Diocese of Palm Beach said Pope Francis is devoted to helping the poor, is interactive and someone who is constantly in the streets his community.

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