Disappointment was evident when a German, Joseph Ratzinger--now Pope Benedict XVI--was chosen instead.
"I would have liked someone different: younger, with new ideas and perhaps with darker skin like us," said Alfonso Mercado, an ice cream seller in Pereira, Colombia. Many in the city in Colombia's coffee-growing region hoped Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, who preached in Pereira for 22 years, would be chosen.
Across the developing world, there was barely disguised disappointment--particularly among many Latin Americans, who make up roughly half the world's Catholics - that one of their own was not elected to lead the Roman Catholic Church.
"It should have been a Latino," said Gloria Vazquez, a 50-year-old housewife in Tegucigalpa. Yet she answered the call of the bells to a Mass in honor of the new pope at the Honduran capital's little cathedral.
"What are we going to do?" she asked. "We're Catholics."
The chimes sent waves of pigeons wheeling above the church, where dozens of the faithful had been listening to a radio broadcast of the papal announcement that echoed off the stained, peeling walls - a testimony to the poverty of this part of the Catholic world.
Julio Lancellotti, a priest who works with homeless and abandoned children in Sao Paulo, Brazil, frowned when he heard the papal announcement.
"We accept the pope who has been chosen," he said. "I accept in silence. We priests can have no opinion."
Many believed a pope from the developing world would be more focused on its problems, including poverty and the expansion of evangelical religions.
"Ratzinger's presence is a disaster for Latin America," snapped Bernardo Barranco, a Mexican sociologist and expert on religion, during a telephone interview from Rome.
"He took it upon himself to liquidate liberation theology. He didn't understand Latin America,'' said Barranco, referring to the blend of the Gospel with radical politics that rose in this region."
In Africa, the Vatican's announcement dashed hopes for those who were pulling for Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria.
In Onitsha, the city in southeastern Nigeria where Arinze once was bishop, people gathered in restaurants and shops--wherever they could find a television--to watch the announcement.
Mary Ekpe, a 30-year-old Nigerian banker, said she never really expected an African pope to be elected.
"I know Europeans and Americans are not ready for that yet," Ekpe said. "But I thought they would've elected somebody from Latin America."
But she added: "I see something positive in the fact that they chose a German instead of an Italian. It shows at least the church is not returning to the tradition of having only Italian popes."
Matthew Hassan Kukah, a prominent Nigerian priest in the capital Abuja, said the faithful must not be disappointed.
"This is not the finals of the World Cup," Kukah said. "The sentiments are understandable, but this is the Catholic Church. We give thanks to God."
Colombian Bishop Jaime Prieto acknowledged that "we all had secret hopes that the next pope would be one of us." But he said Ratzinger's choice signals continued Vatican support for efforts to bring peace to Colombia, bloodied by a guerrilla war in which dozens of priests have been killed.
Monsignor Alejandro Goic, president of the Chilean Bishops Conference, defended the new pope, saying he "has a profound knowledge of Latin America" and speaks Spanish.
Marlyn Caceres, a 26-year-old selling candles, wooden crosses and rosaries outside La Candelaria Church in Caracas, Venezuela, said she remained hopeful Ratzinger will be a good pope.
"They say the man is humble. I hope he will be like the pope who died," said Caceres. "May it be as God wishes."