Pope Francis I, first pontiff from Americas
In what many television commentators and local priests called a surprise, the first pope from the Americas in over a century was elected to the pontificate Wednesday in Rome.
“To tell you the truth I don’t know much about him. I know that he wasn’t one of the names that were bantered about when people were talking about it.” said the Rev. Rodger Bauman, pastor of Guardian Angels Catholic Church in Oakdale shortly after the pope’s election. “But I think it’s wonderful for the Americas, too. It’s great for someone from our area to be elected to that station. I’m sure they’re just elated in Argentina right now.”
Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina, who took the name Pope Francis I, was elected the 266th Pope one day after 115 cardinals entered the conclave to select a new pontiff. Pope Francis’ election comes after a reported close election between him and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI during the last conclave.
The 76-year-old Argentine’s election seems to speak to where the largest growing population of the current faithful live, in Latin America. He is also the first Jesuit elected to the papacy.
Reports said Pope Francis I maintains conservative values regarding issues such as the ordination of women, priestly celibacy and abortion. He has clashed with Argentinian officials on issues such as same-sex marriage. But he is also known for his championing of social programs, service to the poor, and grassroots evangelism of the faith.
Issues facing Pope Francis I going into his papacy include a quickly growing flock in some parts of the world while some parts of the Catholic religion are growing disenchanted and shrinking, Vatican bureaucracy which is said to need sweeping reform and a church still struggling with it’s sex-abuse scandal.
The Rev. Michael Miller, pastor of the Church of St. Michael in Stillwater, responded to the selection in an email saying he was excited about the new pope and his humble nature. He added that he looked forward to the future with Pope Francis I as pope along with the Pope’s interest in worldwide evangelization.
“(The election) of Pope Francis I came as a great surprise in many respects. I think as we learn more about him, as we will all have to do I think we’ll discover that the Holy Spirit worked well in choosing him,” Rev. Mark Juttner, pastor at St. Charles Catholic Church in Bayport said. “The fact that he’s a Jesuit priest taking on a Franciscan name is interesting as well. I’m very pleased with his witness to the faith, his simplicity and he seems very familiar with the human condition. A great great surprise but I’m glad we have a new Pope from a new world, for a new age.”
Catholics now wait for Pope Francis I to make his mark. His Installation Mass takes place on Tuesday just under a week before Palm Sunday and the start of Holy Week.