An attorney representing dozens of Native Americans in one of two sex-abuse lawsuits against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Helena says he hopes a new pope will mean a new approach by the church in dealing with victims.

But Blaine Tamaki says Pope Francis appears to be aligned with a conservative doctrine when more transparency is needed.

Tamaki's clients claim they were sexually abused by nuns and priests in western Montana from the 1940s to the 1970s. His lawsuit has been combined with another that claims the Helena diocese covered up abuse.

Helena Bishop George Leo Thomas released a statement congratulating Pope Francis that calls the new pontiff a bridge builder.

Settlement talks have been taking place for more than a year. A mediation conference is set for April.