Local reaction to Pope Francis: Hope, change, history

March 14, 2013 4:47:58 AM PDT
Local Catholics reacted to the news of a new pope with a great deal of excitement, hope for change, and acknowledgement of history being made.

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"He certainly brings a national dimension to the life of the church and it's a unique historical moment," Chaput said at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, his first remarks to the media after the selection of Pope Francis.

For young seminarians at St. Charles Seminary, who have dedicated their lives to the Catholic church, the emergence of Pope Francis was a beautiful moment.

"We were in class, actually in American Church History, and one of my classmates yelled out, 'We have a pope! There's white smoke!' We bolted out of the classroom to run down to the TV room to see who the next pope would be. It's great to have a pastor again," seminarian Kevin Lonergan said.

"We've been waiting for this for over a month now and just to see him come out on the balcony and give us his blessing, it was overwhelming," seminarian Charles Ravert said.

Most of the young men know little about the new pope, Jorge Bergoglio. He reportedly finished second at the last conclave, but he was not considered a frontrunner by any means.

His election is one of many firsts. He is is the first Jesuit, the first Latin American pontiff, and the first Francis.

"I don't know too much about him, but I think it's great that he speaks Spanish as his first language, and given that the majority of people in the church speak Spanish," Lonergan said.

"I think he's going to be a source of great joy, enthusiasm, and surprise," Chaput said.

In his official statement, Chaput said the following:

"I first met our new Holy Father at Rome's 1997 Synod for America, and still have a gift from him, a portrait of Mary, the mother of Jesus, on my desk.

Pope Francis, the former Cardinal Bergoglio, is a man from the new heartland of the global Church; a priest of extraordinary intellectual and cultural strengths; a man deeply engaged in the issues of contemporary life and able to speak to the modern heart; open to the new realities the Church faces; and rooted in a deep love of Jesus Christ. He is a wonderful choice; a pastor God sends not just to the Church but to every person of good will who honestly yearns for justice, peace and human dignity in our time. May God grant him courage and joy, and sustain him with his divine presence.

And may Catholics in Philadelphia and around the world lift him up with our prayers."

Action News was all over the region, including inside the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, as the new leader of the Roman Catholic Church emerged - Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina.

There we spoke with local church leaders who expressed delight and surprise.

"Happy surprise. You can see the church reaching out now to another whole continent, another whole area of the church that has been growing so tremendously," Msgr. Arthur Rodgers said.

"A breath of fresh air. Someone who could come in and would bring with them the strength to address all the challenges that are facing our church today. Hopefully, the Lord will inspire the cardinal from Argentina," Msgr. Louis D'Addezio said.

Action News also caught up with a Catholic Social Services employee who is from the new Pope's hometown, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Maria Travaglio says Pope Francis is a very well known and beloved man of God with a strong social conscience.

"He's a very important person in Argentina. He's always speaking for the poor, always asking the government to pacify the country. Because of politics, Argentina is quite divided right now," Travaglio said.

Other Roman Catholics we spoke with are anticipating a spiritual leader that can help rebuild the church's image around the world.

"We do need a lot of reform. There's lot of scandal. Everything needs to be looked at," John Meyer of Pennsauken said.

"I know this person is going to be a strong leader and needs to bring the Catholic people, all of us, together as one throughout the whole world," Dave McCarty of Northeast Philadelphia said.

The Action Cam was at St. Gabriel's Convent in the Grays Ferry section of Philadelphia where the sisters watched anxiously as the new pope was introduced.

"Exciting time and to hear our Holy Father so humbly ask the audience to pray for him and then to take the first Pope Francis and a Jesuit, God bless him," Sister St. James said.

In Oxford Circle, as they held the Argentine flag with pride outside Saint Martin of Tours Church, Argentina natives still couldn't believe that moment when Pope Francis stepped onto that Vatican balcony.

"I'm so overwhelmed. This is so good not only for Latin America but for the whole world. It's like a new era," Alejandra Filipuzzi-Barcelona said.

"I couldn't believe it. I jumped out of my seat and stopped everything I was doing and paid attention to the TV," Valentine Grieco said.

Valentine is young, but the 7th grader knows having a pope from Latin America is a big deal and so does his mother, Monica, who needed her son's help to express her excitement in English.

"She is very happy. Not just because he's from Argentina, but he has a lot of character," Valentine said, translating for his mother.

While so many are rejoicing, it's Father David Vidal of Saint Veronica Church in Hunting Park who feels a special connection to the new Pope.

He's also from Buenos Aires and as a young man attended mass led by Archbishop Bergoglio.

"He was archbishop and a strong leader, good pastor, and I am excited and happy to have him as Pope," Vidal said.

Father Vidal leads a church in a predominantly Hispanic area, more than 90 percent of the congregation speaks Spanish.

He believes the first Latin American pontiff will energize the youth in the flock, especially if he attends World Youth Day in July.

It's a global religious event for hundreds of thousands young Catholics which just happens to be in Brazil this year.

"Certainly the pastor that we need for our times; so to have the first pope from Latin America, it will be an inspiration," Vidal said.

Over in Center City, Action News broke the news for many at Rittenhouse Square Wednesday afternoon.

"We were so excited at work. Everyone is saying 'We got a pope! We got a pope!' But we didn't know exactly where he was from," Kathy Egan of Lindenwold, New Jersey said.

The Associated Press describes Pope Francis as the first ever from the Americas, an austere Jesuit intellectual who modernized Argentina's conservative Catholic church.

"I think that's good, something different. Move forward," Egan said.

"I love the sound of it. I think it's wonderful. I think it's time that we've gone out farther and I think that he'd be a great pope," Jenny Walker of Audubon Park, New Jersey said.

"I'm quite sure it's good because I understand that's where most new members are actually coming from," Erik Torp of Center City said.

The mere selection of this pope signals some change.

"Exciting time for change," Walker said.

"The Catholics are all over the world, so they have a lot of population over there, but they need a change," Trina DiLuca of Sicklerville, New Jersey said.

All over the region, Action News continued to get reaction.

In Drexel Hill, the talk was about the historic nature of the moment and the anticipation Pope Francis could make some of their hopes come true.

"I got the chills. As one of my daughters said, it's history," Maureen Liberatore of Drexel Hill, Pa. said.

"He looks like he could do some good work. My hope is for a modernization of the church in various ways. I hope they stop worrying about birth control and gays, and move ahead," Pidge Molynaux of Drexel Hill said.

"I'm hoping that he unites the church and we all come together," Dan Beiter of Drexel Hill said.

Ecuadorian native Edison Andrade is all smiles after hearing the news that Pope Francis, the former Archbishop of Buenos Aires, has become the Catholic Church's first Latin American pontiff.

Edison says it's just what he prayed for at yesterday's special mass held at St. Mary's Cathedral in Trenton.

"I'm very happy because just in time we got us a pope from the most Catholic place in this world now, Latin America," Andrade said.

The church's Latino community is rejoicing.

"For us, it's grateful to have someone from our roots that understands our needs from the Spanish community. So we are grateful for the first time we have a Hispanic pope," Julio Alvarez said.

The new pontiff is described as a conservative, but also of reformer who is said to sometimes cook his own meals and take public transportation.

People say they know very little about Pope Francis so far, but like what they are hearing.

"I think that's great; I think it's time we got a common man in the papacy that can relate to all our common problems, it's a great thing," Wayne Murray of Willingboro, New Jersey said.

"With the immigration that we have going on and the issues all around that, I think it's going to make a huge impact for the country and for the world," Donna Davis of Sewell, New Jersey said.

In Wilmington, Bishop Francis Malooly is excited about the new pope.

"He'll have plenty of pastoral experience. He knows how to lead the church. I'm very enthused," Malooly said.

Bishop Malooly also is happy with the pope choosing the name Francis.

"I'm actually delighted he took the name Francis. For those of you who don't know, that's my first name also, so we get to pray in Delaware for our Pope Francis and our Bishop Francis," Malooly said.

Bishop Malooly released the following statement on the election of Pope Francis:

It was with great joy that I heard the news that our Cardinals, inspired by the Holy Spirit, have elected Pope Francis to guide the Catholic Church as the Vicar of Christ. I ask the people of Delaware and Maryland's Eastern Shore to join me, and Catholics around the world, in prayer for Pope Francis, that God will bless this new successor to St. Peter. We are confident that with God's help, Pope Francis will have the grace and strength to lead our Church in these times of challenge.

At Saint Joseph's University in Wynnefield, a Jesuit school, students and faculty say they feel a special sense of pride, especially Camillo Ramos, an international student from Chile.

"South America has been well known for being highly populated by Catholic people, so the fact that he's from Argentina will bring us all closer to the church," Ramos said.

"It's cool to be able to take part in that celebration, to feel like we have a special connection with the Holy Father," senior Jennifer Cush said.

William Madges, the Dean of College of Arts and Sciences and a theology professor, says he was surprised the cardinals chose a Jesuit to be pope, but also says it's about time.

"The Jesuits really make up the largest religious order in the Catholic church, so I think there's some recognition of the fact that this is an order that has strong roots internationally," Madges said.

He says Pope Francis is known for living a simple life and his work for helping the poor and addressing social injustice.

What is your reaction to the new pope? Leave your comments below.