The priests built new towns and villages for their converts.They constructed huge churches, larger than many of the cathedrals in Europe.

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In the United States, Latino immigrants from Los Angeles to Wilmington, North Carolina, expressed joy and thanksgiving at the selection of a pope who shares their language, culture, and heritage.

Some pundits speculated that the enthusiasm over the selection of Bergoglio may strengthen the political position of the Latin-American church.

In the Catholic Church, in addition to the Latin Church, there are 23 Eastern Catholic Churches, self-governing particular churches.

These churches trace their origins to other patriarchates, but either never historically broke communion or returned to full communion with the Pope at some time.

As Hernán Cortés tore through the Aztec Empire, he was following a letter of instruction that said, “The first aim of your expedition is to serve God and spread the Christian faith.”The first missionaries arrived shortly after the fall of the Aztecs.

Most of the missionary work was done by Catholic orders—the Franciscans, Dominicans, Augustinians and Jesuits.

Although Latin America remains predominantly Catholic, its various national societies are changing in ways that will affect both institutional Catholicism and the life of the Catholic masses. Today, Latin America and the Caribbean are home to about 40 percent of the world’s Catholics.

Across the region, however, Catholics have been leaving the faith in droves.

The Latin Church, sometimes called the Western Church, is the largest part of the Catholic Church, governed directly by the Pope, tracing its history to the earliest days of Christianity.

It represents the largest particular church sui iuris in full communion with the Catholic Church.

Latinos—there was a collective gasp of surprise and excitement over the news of the conclave’s election of Argentina’s Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Pope Francis.