Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, 76, of Argentina, was elected the 266th pope, the first from the Americas and the first from outside Europe.
Bergoglio, now known as Pope Francis, was installed as pope in a ceremony in Rome on Tuesday, March 19. He follows Pope Benedict XVI, who resigned Feb. 28.
Locally, priests of Sacred Heart Catholic Parish and students at Sacred Heart Catholic School watched the live feed from the Vatican on Wednesday.
Michaela Friedrich, a sixth-grader from Sacred Heart Catholic School, was excited to watch the introduction of the new pope with her class.
“I will never forget it because we were a witness to history, and we got to experience it with both of our parish priests and our principal as they were in our classroom with us watching,” Michaela said.
The Rev. Jeremy Dixon, associate pastor of Sacred Heart Catholic Church, said Pope Francis seemed to bring simplicity to his position.
“I think that his humility and easygoing manner are models for us to follow and will attract people to renew their faith,” Dixon said. “He seems to understand that we draw people to Christ (or away from him) by our actions and example. As a Latin American, he also brings a new perspective to many of the issues facing the Church and the world.”
Bergoglio took the papal name Francis in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, who ministered to the poor and who lived a life of poverty.
The Rev. Rex Hays, Sacred Heart’s pastor, appreciates the pope’s humility.
“I’m really impressed with Pope Francis — he seems to have a different pastoral approach that is a refreshing change,” Hays said. “He is truly humble, and he has a deep love for the poor that manifests itself in concrete relationships. He chose the name Francis, indicating his concern for the poor, for the environment and for peace, all of which are urgent issues of our time. I’m excited to see how his pontificate will affect the church.”
Jason Oliveira, the principal of Sacred Heart Catholic School, said the election of a pope is always a time of excitement within the Catholic Church, as it brings with it imminent change.
“I thought it was great that he asked each of us for prayers before he gave the papal blessing,” Oliveira said. “The fact that he his holy, humble and kind will serve him well as he faces the challenges before him as the leader of the Catholic Church,” Oliveira said.
Even local residents of other denominations paid attention to the election of the new leader of the Catholic Church.
The Rev. Ken Moren, pastor of Family Christian Center in Patterson, said he wished the new pope a healthy, long life and a successful ministry.
Moren said that he understands that on the Sunday before the conclave to elect the pope, the gospel reading in Catholic churches around the world was the parable of the Prodigal Son.
“It has been reported that cardinals in Rome used it to talk about bringing back Catholics who had left the church,” Moren said. “It’s also been speculated that Pope Francis may see in this parable of the Prodigal Son that it is time for the Catholic Church to find its way back to its people. I hope the new pope sees it as the Church, both Catholic and Protestant, returning to the authority of God’s Holy Word.”
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