Local Catholics react to ‘humble servant’ new pope
Triangle Catholics shared their excitement and hopes Wednesday for the new pope who is the first Latin American pope and the first Jesuit pope.
The election of Pope Francis I on Wednesday was a surprise, as he wasn’t one of the names heard in pre-talk, said Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, who leads the Catholic Diocese of Raleigh. Burbidge said what he’s learning about the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, “is so beautiful.” Pope Francis is a humble servant, very pastoral and of the people, he said.
After the announcement, Pope Francis addressed the crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square at Vatican City, Italy. He asked the people to pray for him.
“It was a humble gesture. That’s just who he is, not just a gesture. He’s a humble man,” Burbidge said. Pope Francis used the word “voyage,” or “new journey,” Burbidge said, and what that means to the Catholic Church, the Catholic faith, is a new beginning.
“God gives us a gift to begin anew,” he said.
Sister Mare’ Carol Loughney of St. Bernadette Catholic Church in Butner said she is grateful to God for the election of Pope Francis.
“He is a holy man who is also learned and from the Americas,” Loughney said. “Our Spanish people will be thrilled that the Church has recognized them and their needs.
“With God’s help he will be a unifier and a man of peace. His demeanor, his speech, his prayer and simplicity and the choice of his name say much about this man of God,” she said.
Carlos Lima, parish administrator at St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Chapel Hill, watched the announcement on EWTN, the Global Catholic Network.
“I’m originally from Venezuela, so it’s very exciting they elected a Latin American pope,” he said. “I think it’s very positive for the Church.”
About a third of parishioners at St. Thomas More are Hispanic, he said. With Latin America and Africa being the fastest growing segments of the Church nowadays, Lima said, he thinks the election of a Latin American pope is a signal the Church is conscious of the connection the pope can make with Spanish speakers.
Lima also said Pope Francis’ request that the people pray for him, even before putting on the stole, was a wonderful signal of humility. Lima noted the name chosen by the new pontiff could be for St. Francis of Assisi or St. Francis Xavier, a missionary with the Jesuit religious order.
Lima said he expects a lot of continuity with what the Catholic Church has been doing the past several years. Lima’s own hopes for Pope Francis are “that he will be able to uphold teachings of the Catholic Church in a world that’s become more secular.”
Marianne Marlo, a longtime member of Holy Cross Catholic Church in Durham, said the announcement was exciting. She said she is delighted Pope Francis is a Jesuit. Holy Cross Catholic was founded by the Jesuits.
“It’s a monumental day, having someone so humble leading us,” she said. “It struck me that he’s a prayerful man,” Marlo said. “I hope he’s a man of listening, because there are a lot of issues to deal with.”
In particular, she hopes he will listen to women’s issues and the Church. “I found it difficult to watch them scrutinize women’s religious orders, so certainly women in the Church, and belonging for gays and lesbians. I hope he leads the Church to belong to everyone,” she said.
Marlo noted that Pope Francis addressed the crowd as “men and women of good faith” – a significant way to start his papacy, she said, with the broad inclusion.
“There’s a lot of turmoil in the Church, with sexual abuse which is hopefully behind us, and I want a sense of responsibility,” she said.
Having a pope from Argentina is a new breath for the Catholic Church, Marlo said. “He will obviously see the world in a different way,” she said. For Jesuits, she said, everything you do is for the glory of God, you are prayerful and a person of the world. Taking religious order vows, she said, means he has lived his life on a different level and has better knowledge of the poor.
“If he’s a man rooted in prayer and listening to all the people, you can’t ask for more,” she said.
Burbidge said the challenge for Pope Francis will be new evangelism, and bringing back Catholics who have left. The challenge is not compromising the truth of the Gospel, and welcoming them back with joy and compassion, he said.
“Everyone needs to know they are welcomed, embraced, attended to,” the bishop said.
Burbidge hopes the new pope will be a unifier.
“I think he will lead by example,” he said.