Local Catholics excited about new pope

Mar. 14, 2013 @ 03:44 PM

Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now better known as Pope Francis, was selected and announced Wednesday. 

Bergoglio is the first pope to come from outside Europe, the first pope to come from the Jesuit order and the first pope to take the name Francis. The Vatican confirmed he took his name from Saint Francis of Assisi and not Saint Francis Xavier, a key figure in the early Jesuit movement. 

Benjamin Roberts, the pastor at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Monroe, was surprised by the choice. He gathered all of his clergy around the television once he learned of the white smoke.

"I did have a sense, I kind of thought that we might have a pope from Latin America...I was surprised because the rumors that I was reading suggested other possibilities," Roberts said. 

Bergoglio did not appear on many short lists or the odds that were being created for people to bet on. 

Whether or not Pope Francis being a Jesuit will make a difference is something that only time will tell, Roberts said. Their principle mission has been education and missionary activities. The Jesuits have founded numerous schools and are very, very well educated. 

Priests in the Jesuit order take a vow of poverty, which diocesan priests do not do, though they are expected to live simply, Roberts said. 

It has been said that Pope Francis did indeed live simply, taking the bus, flying coach and living among the people of Argentina, where he was born. 

His namesake, Saint Francis, also lived in poverty for most of his life. One famous story surrounding Saint Francis is that God spoke to him when he was in the Chapel of San Damiano. God said go and rebuild my church, which you can see has fallen into ruin. He also founded the Franciscan Order. 

"I have to say that when (Pope Francis) begged for the prayer of the people...asked the people to pray that God would bless him before he blessed them, that was a pretty profound moment," Roberts said. 

Robert Prevost, an associate professor of religion and philosophy at Wingate University, thinks Pope Francis will help to rebuild the church like his namesake. 

"Obviously, the problems of the bureaucracy of the Catholic Church, the secrecy and the lack of transparency needs to be addressed," Prevost said. "(Pope Francis) is a reformer and I believe a lot of people thought that's the direction the church needs to go." 

Prevost added that Pope Francis is not a reformer doctrinally and would not expect him to change anything on the church's more controversial stances. 

"You should see a change with respect to the internal workings of the church," Prevost said. 

Prevost would also expect to see a focus on evangelism and spreading the message of Christ in a better way. 

Something that Roberts said that is the principle priority of the Pope and other clergy members. He said the issues of governance and issues to be dealt with around the world should be kept in that spirit. 

"All of the other issues fall under the broad category of what we're principally about," Roberts said. 

Prevost noted that the last two popes were also not Italian. 

"I think the cardinals are conscious of the pope being a world figure and not just a European figure," Prevost said.