Bishops across America voiced joy and gratitude over Pope Francis accepting his election as Bishop of Rome and Vicar of Christ on March 13.

"I am very happy with the election of Pope Francis," Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles said. "For us as Catholics, this is a beautiful spiritual moment, a time of joy and thanksgiving. A time for prayer for the whole Church."

Archbishop Gomez called it a "beautiful sign" that our new Pope is from the Americas, adding that his election "is a call for all of us to strive for holiness and to work to make our countries and our continents a 'new world of faith.'"

Pope Francis was the Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires. White smoke wafted from the Sistine Chapel at 7:06 in the evening in Rome on Wednesday, announcing his election.

He greeted the crowds of faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square an hour later, after spending time in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament in the Pauline Chapel.

The new pontiff was elected during the fifth ballot of the conclave, on its second day.

Archbishop Gomez noted that Pope Francis has been a "humble man" with a "desire for holiness," who is "a defender of the poor, a strong teacher, and a leader committed to renewal in the Church and the new evangelization."

He concluded his statement by asking Our Lady of Guadalupe's intercession for Pope Francis.

Bishop James Conley of Lincoln said his local Church in Nebraska "rejoices with the Universal Church on the election of Pope Francis."

"Our new Holy Father is a man of deep prayer, humility and absolute fidelity to the doctrine and discipline of the Catholic Church," he noted.

"He understands the plight of the poor and has a real heart for the New Evangelization."

Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. said he and the local faithful "pledge to him our loyalty and love as the Vicar of Christ, the visible head of the Church Universal and Servant of the servants of God."

"We thank God for the many intellectual talents and spiritual qualities, pastoral experience and effective ministry of the new Pope."

"In Pope Francis, we recognize the successor to Peter and the visible sign of the unity of the Church spread throughout the whole world. He is the touchstone for the mission, message and tradition of the Church," said Cardinal Wuerl.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York weighed in that the election of Pope Francis "marks a great milestone in our church."

Archbishop Alexander Sample, who is to be installed next month in Portland, Ore., urged prayer for Pope Francis through Twitter: "Begin praying now for Pope Francis. He has asked us to do so, and so we will!" he wrote.

Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston stated that "I join my brother Cardinals in giving thanks to God for the election of Pope Francis...the world will greatly benefit from Pope Francis witnessing Jesus' call for us to love God and love one another."

"We pledge our faithful support for the Holy Father as he leads the Church in proclaiming the New Evangelization, inviting all people to a develop a closer relationship with Christ and to share that gift with others."

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia said Pope Francis "is a wonderful choice; a pastor God sends not just to the Church but to every person of good will who honestly yearns for justice, peace and human dignity in our time."

In remarks to CNA March 13, Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver reflected that "today is a day of great joy for the entire Church."

"Pope Francis has been called to the ministry of St. Peter: to be the 'visible source and foundation' of unity in the Church."