New pope inspires fresh hope

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Local Catholic leaders react to election of new pontiff

Pope Francis waves to the crowd from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Wednesday. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, who chose the name of Francis, is the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. — Photo by The Associated Press

Surprise and hope are the initial reactions to the choosing of a new pope from three local Catholic representatives.

Jorge Bergoglio, 76, of Argentina was elected pope Wednesday, becoming the first pontiff from the Americas and the first from outside Europe in more than a millennium. He chose the name Francis, also a first.

Archbishop of the Archdiocese of St. John’s, Martin Currie, says his age was something of a shock.

“I thought it might have been a younger man, but his background seems that he might be very, very concerned for the poor.”

Bergoglio, the longtime archbishop of Buenos Aires, is the son of middle-class Italian immigrants and is known as a humble man who denied himself the luxuries that previous Buenos Aires cardinals enjoyed.

He often rode the bus to work, cooked his own meals and regularly visited the slums that ring Argentina’s capital.

He considers social outreach, rather than doctrinal battles, to be the essential business of the church.

“Perhaps that’s what we need at this time — that we’re going to show a deep care for the poor rather than for many of the intellectual pursuits and other things,” says Currie.


Sister hopes Pope will lead church into 21st century

The Archbishop is also quick to point out that Bergoglio’s age should not be taken as a disadvantage, even though it may have come as something of a surprise. He points out that Pope John XXIII was 78 when he was chosen and he brought about the second Vatican council, considered a large and welcome change by many.

Father Paul Lundrigan of St. Kevin’s Parish, Goulds, also points to Pope John XXIII as an example of a man who came into the papacy as an elder and brought about sweeping changes.

“Pretty exciting” is how describes the choice of Bergoglio.

An older man may be entrenched in views but that can be a good thing, says Father Lundrigan.

“That’s not necessarily a bad thing either, because some of his views are very good.”

Lundrigan points to the new pope’s commitment to a simple life and his identifying with the poverty stricken as positives.

Currie agrees.

“He might transform the church in his own way because of his love for the poor,” says the Archbishop, adding he hopes the new pope is a man of the people.

Lundrigan sees other good points in the new pope, as well. In addition to his human rights record, he says Bergoglio hasn’t been tainted by a lot of the scandals that have affected the Catholic church. He says while Bergoglio is familiar with the Roman system, he’s not very closely attached to it.

“All that’s sort of a positive thing, as well,” he says.

Lundrigan does see things that will disappoint some people, though. He says Bergoglio apparently has strong views about gay rights that will not coincide with the more liberal followers, and despite that same-sex marriage was legalized in the Pope’s home country of Argentina, he was on the record as opposing it.

There’s also the ordaining of women, which Bergoglio’s opposes, according to Father Lundrigan.

“That’s going to disappoint some people, as well,” he says.

Sister Elizabeth Davis has hopes Pope Francis will come around in this regard.

“We do hope he hears the cry of women, because we need to know that we are full members of our church. And we hope that he reaches out to other Christian churches and other world religions as companions on this journey through life.”

Davis is the former chief executive officer of the Health Care Corporation of St. John’s and is a Congregational Leader of the Sisters of Mercy of Newfoundland.

“I think the first thing everybody would have to say is it’s a surprise,” she says of the choice of pope.

Davis says Bergoglio’s was not a name that had been raised. She says the fact that he is not European, and that he is the first pope to choose the name Francis, gives her hope.

“We hope this signals this Pope will be a pope who will lead us in ways that we hope our church will go in this 21st century,” she says.

Davis is particularly pleased in the Pope’s heritage because they have sisters who work in Peru. She says having a pope who comes from that part of the world and understands the challenges facing the South American people is a great thing. She says his humble support for the poor also impresses her.

“That’s very important I think in our world today, and we all have hopes now because this is a new moment in our church.”

Sister Davis says she hopes a commitment to a humble lifestyle will define his papacy. She is also optimistic that Pope Francis will open the doors of the Catholic church and make people feel welcome who currently may not.

Wise leadership in diversity is what’s needed, she says.

Lundrigan says he feels Pope Francis will serve the people well. When he walked onto the balcony on Wednesday, he says, he didn’t raise his hands to bless the people but bent from the waist asking the people to bless him.

“Symbolically, that was huge. That was a huge sign. His first act was to bow to the people and say ‘I need your blessing to do this work,’ which I would hope suggests he’s open towards listening to people.”

This is what Father Lundrigan says he was hoping for in a new pope all along.

“I never expected that there would be sweeping changes in the church coming from on high this day in age.”

The movements will come from the ground, he says. They’ll initiate in Roman Catholic parishes all over the world.

“And what’s needed on top was somebody who would be willing to listen us.”

Francis will celebrate his first mass as Pope in the Sistine Chapel on Thursday, and will be installed officially as Pope on Tuesday, according to Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi.

With files from The Associated Press

Organizations: Martin Currie, Catholic church, Vatican council Health Care The Associated Press

Geographic location: Argentina, Buenos Aires, Americas Europe Newfoundland Peru Vatican

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Recent comments

  • Paul Joan O'Murchu
    March 14, 2013 - 10:32

    Perhaps by saying he is not interested in doctrinal debates he is saying that he will bring dissidents in line. It is not uncommon to see local Priests and Nuns spread new age and novel heretical teachings and opinions not in keeping with the Catholic Church's. They confuse and mislead people which does nothing to help their salvation. Saint Francis as told by God to "rebuild the Church" because of things like this, so maybe Pope Francis will do the same.

  • grant
    March 14, 2013 - 09:18

    What a bunch of crap.Its taking from the poor and giving to the rich. The millions of poor innocent kids, beaten and raped, over the centuries unreal. My firm belief is that it all started when the first Scroungel meet the first fool.

  • Darren
    March 14, 2013 - 09:02

    It's hard to believe that milions upon millions of modern day Catholics are still controlled by, and gullible to, this rich Organization.

    March 14, 2013 - 08:52

    Fresh Hope should include not raping children and making some real changes, Parading around like idiots, Makes me sick!

  • Judy
    March 14, 2013 - 07:53

    This Pope, as well, doesn't believe in contraception. Maybe when couples have up to twenty children to take care of, the Catholic Church, with all their wealth, will give them adequate accommodations, fed, support, and educate them. This day and age, that isn't even common sense,

  • original townie
    March 14, 2013 - 07:12

    Seems this guy opposes everything and is stuck in the 1700's. Does not agree with same sex marriage, ordaining women et et. Don't expect any sweeping changes here. That's the same stand the church has taken for hundreds of years. Same old, same old. Give us all your worldly possessions and we'll get you through "the pearlies". The catholic church refuses to step into the present and deal with current issues. Old boys club.

    • too funny
      March 14, 2013 - 08:22

      Just two examples must be a townie definition of "everything".

  • Ger
    March 14, 2013 - 06:33

    I have no doubt that Francis 1st will be good, however, I was really hoping a younger pope would be there. This is a time for change and for a Pope who may have to fight old values and views.