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Richmond Catholics hope pope boost membership

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RICHMOND, Va (WTVR)-- Wednesday night mass took on a new tune at St. Benedict Catholic Church, especially for one Richmond woman.

“It's just wonderful, wonderful, wonderful to be a member of the body of this church,” says Jane Dudley.  She is experiencing her first papal election as a Catholic. “I was a Christian for 49 years. Now, I’m a Catholic. I couldn't be happier,” says Dudley.

Like millions of others, Dudley was glued to the TV when Jorge Bergoglio was introduced as the new pope. He’s the first ever from South America. “The look on his face was like, this is for real,” laughs Father James Kauffman.

With the Catholic Church mired in controversy because of the sex abuse crisis, Father Kauffman tells CBS 6’s Lorenzo Hall, he expects Pope Francis I to give people who once shied away, new reason to join and even return. “It’s working through human weakness,” says Kauffman.

Dudley agrees, saying the pope’s perceived humility is one attraction.

“He lived in a small apartment. He took public transportation to work. He’s very concerned about the poor and not concerned about the politics,” says Dudley.

These parishioners also say geography is key.

“He is from the Americas, first time in the history of the church. It's South America, but still part of the Americas,” says Father Kauffman. He says the selection of this pope will put more focus on the west and likely cause another boom in Spanish speaking Catholics because of the pope’s origin.

“The church in the US is amazing. It’s just exploded with all these immigrants, which is exciting,” says Father Kauffman.