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Students from Pope John Paul II Catholic High School React to New Pontiff

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - It is rare that a pope steps down; usually they are mourning the death of one pope as they await the election of the next. This time, a very different situation.

As Pope Francis stepped up on the balcony, he was met with cheers and excitement for the future of the Catholic Church.

The white smoke billowed and students and teachers at Pope John Paul II Catholic High School gathered to see what weeks of devoted prayer for their new leader would bring.

Pope Francis is the first pope from the Americas.

Theology teacher Barbara Romei says with him comes an experience unlike that of his predecessors.

"That was the evangelized part of the world, so is North America. So we are now moving out past Europe and looking in other parts of the world where the church is growing and thriving, to bring a leader to lead the whole church," said Romei.

Amid the cheers and excitement, was also prayer, as a new chapter begins in the history of the Catholic Church.

The people at Pope John Paul II Catholic High School say poverty, war, and certainly the abuse scandal that has rocked the church will all be the tough issues Pope Francis will have to dress going forward.