Maduro: Chávez picks Pope Francis from beyond grave

Venezuelan, Argentinian leaders react to papal election


CARACAS, Venezuela – According to interim president, Nicolas Maduro, Hugo Chávez had a hand in electing Pope Francis.

"We have important news," Maduro said Wednesday during the opening ceremony of Caracas' International Book Fair. "They just elected a South American as pope for the first time in history… We know that our commander has ascended to [heaven], and that he is in front of Christ right now. He must have influenced something for a South American pope to be chosen."

While the audience cheered and laughed, Maduro continued. "A new hand arrived and Christ said, 'Well, the time for South America has come.' At any moment now [Chavez] will call for a constituent assembly in Heaven to change the Church, so that the people, the true people of Christ will govern the world."

Most global personalities responded to Wednesday's Papal Election with more conventional statements in which they congratulated the Argentine pope and wished him good luck in his new job.

But some in Argentina, with plenty of humor, followed Maduro's lead and took it as a benediction laid on the country from above.

"Everyone in Argentina remembers 'the hand of God' in the match against England in the World Cup of 1986," Argentine soccer legend Diego Armando Maradona wrote in a letter to the Roman newspaper Il Messagero, referring to his famous goal in the quarterfinal. "Now, in my country, 'the hand of God' has brought us an Argentinean pope."