Everything about the election and introduction of the new Pope on Wednesday indicated a change of thinking for the Catholic Church.
San Mateo County pastors and laymen alike were struck by the symbolism of his chosen name, his choice of garment and how he presented himself to the world from the balcony of St. Peter’s basilica.
“It was a powerful image to see him bow his head,” St. Andrews’ pastor Piers Lahey said. “It spoke to being the humble, holy man he is, that he asked for a blessing from the 110,000 people at the square.”
To some, the election of Argentina Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Pope was a surprise. For others, it seemed the only sensible thing to do.
“When I read through all the bios, I had him at the top of my list,” San Carlos resident and Serra High Admissions Counselor Randy Vogel said.
The new leader, who chose the name Pope Francis, is the first Latin American ever to become Roman Pontiff, and the first Jesuit.
“They say this was a revolutionary kind of election,” said Lahey, who served at the Church of the Good Shepard in Pacifica for 14 years, and for 10 months at St. Charles, before taking over at St. Andrew’s in Daly City last July.
“When you look at the history of the church, you might see that Jesuits and Franciscans have not liked each other very much,” Lahey said. “Perhaps taking the name of Francis, as a Jesuit, means he may be a kind of reconciler.”
Father Lahey also felt taking the name of Francis reflects the story in the life of St. Francis, who heard God telling him to rebuild his church.
“It seems like a fitting image,” Lahey said. “It’s a wonderful choice to call himself Francis.”
Father Diarmuid Casey at St. Dunstan’s in Millbrae was pleased with the choice as well, saying that beginning with a prayer was very significant.
“He seems to be a very holy man,” Casey said. “With the very disturbing sexual abuse thing, we need a man who has the courage to take that on. We need his leadership in delicate areas.”
Bergoglio was elected on the fifth ballot of the conclave. More than an hour passed when Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the senior cardinal-deacon, appeared on the central balcony of St. Peter’s basilica to declare, in a traditional announcement, “Habemus papam!” (We have a Pope)
“When we first saw him, we were struck by how much he looked like John Paul I, who lived in the papacy a month before dying in his sleep,” Lahey said. “He wore a simple, John Paul cassock, a reflection of his humility. That was no accident. He was making a statement.”
By most analysis, the conclave got it right. A son of Italian immigrants, Pope Francis understands that heritage.
“The church is world wide,” Lahey said. “We are glad he is from a Spanish speaking country. There has been a lot conflict and crisis in the church and we were hoping for a Pope who would be a kind of healer, able to build bridges and bring people together.”
“There is some sense that Latin-American voices will be heard in the church,” Casey said. “He has a reputation for holiness.”
The new Pope is well acquainted with the Vatican. At the time of his election to the papacy he was a member of the Congregations for Divine Worship, the Clergy, and Religious; the Pontifical Council for the Family, and the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.
“There is a tremendous Catholic following in Argentina,” Vogel said. “I think this reinforces that the Catholic Church is world wide and not centered in Rome.”
“The NDNU community certainly welcomes the decision of the college of cardinals to elevate to the papacy the first ever person from Latin America,” Norte Dame de Namur President Dr. Judith Maxwell Greig said in a statement. “Hispanics represent about 40 percent of the Catholic Church worldwide and, as a Hispanic Serving Institution as well as a Catholic one, we recognize the significance this election holds for both the Church and the greater society. We look forward to learning more about Pope Francis, and we all pray that God grants him the wisdom to lead the church wisely in these difficult times.”
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