Pope Francis, the new head of the Roman Catholic Church, is the first non-European in more than 1,000 years to occupy the post.
Pope Francis, the new head of the Roman Catholic Church, is the first non-European in more than 1,000 years to occupy the post. The elevation of the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, is the latest development in an unprecedented period for Catholics still reeling from Pope Benedict XVI’s unexpected retirement on Feb. 28.
His selection gets a thumbs-up from some local Catholics.
“I’m a bit surprised and I’m a bit pleased,” said the Rev. Patrick Manning, chairman of the department of theology at Walsh University in North Canton.
“I think it shows a little insight, and the fact that the church is pretty concerned about Catholics throughout the world ... I think it (election) shows respect for the world’s churches and for the world’s poor.”
Francis also makes history as the first Jesuit pontiff, his new name referring to St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals, the poor and the environment.
“I’m also quite taken with the fact that he’s a Jesuit. He was trained as a chemist,” Manning said. “Jesuits have a wonderful background of respect for intellect. I studied at the Jesuit University in Rome, and Boston College. They go through many years of training. Many have doctorates in areas other than theology.”
“I think this is wonderful, absolutely phenomenal,” said M.J. Albacete, executive director of the Canton Museum of Art, and an expert on St. Peter’s Basilica and its art. “I think the one word that significantly applies to new pope is, he’s an intellectual.”
Calling Jesuits “the intellectual soul of Catholicism,” Albacete said that because Jesuits place so much emphasis on learning and science, there have been occasional clashes with the church hierarchy.
“Because the Jesuits were always pursuing scientific inquiry, there was a time in history that only a certain number were allowed in Rome at any one time,” he said, laughing.
Raquel Berroteran, member of the Mary, Queen of Heaven & Earth Chapter of Magnificat, a Catholic women’s group, said she was inspired by the selection.
“I thought it was amazing, it was very humbling to watch,” she said. “My daughter is 9, and goes to Catholic school. She was very excited.”
Berroteran said she’s not surprised the cardinals selected Bergoglio.
“I heard someone say that anything is possible with God,” she said. “It was in their hands. They’re so close to God that if anyone can hear God’s voice, it’s them.”
Albacete said Francis could be a transformational leader.
“I think what sometimes happens with the church is they’ve recognized the need to turn the corner and take the church — and Catholicism in particular — to the 21st century,” he said. “It’s long overdue ... I think were going to see some significant changes in how the Catholic Church operates.”
Page 2 of 2 - Manning said the selection proves that the Catholic Church is not solely a western European entity.
“It’s more cosmopolitan than that,” he said. “He wasn’t on the pundits’ list. But that’s how the Holy Spirit works.”
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Bishop George V. Murry:
“The Catholic community of the Diocese of Youngstown rejoices at the election of Pope Francis I, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina.
“Pope Francis has said he will be a bishop of the people, and asked the world to pray for him, while he blesses us.
“We offer the new pope our best wishes and promise him our prayers as he continues the mission of St. Peter to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to the world.”