Pope Francis

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He is being called the people’s pope.

When Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires was elected pope Wednesday, local church leaders say while he is still somewhat unknown to the world at large, his choice of name is indicative of what kind of man he is and what kind of leader he will be.

Pope Francis, the 266th pope of the Catholic Church, was elected by his fellow cardinals on Wednesday. Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, from Buenos Aires, Argentina, chose the papal name Franciscus in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi.

The new pontiff, Pope Francis, chose the name in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi.

“The more I learn about him, the more excited I am about the choice the conclave made,” said Father Stephen Schultz, pastor at Our Lady of Belen Catholic Church. “I think he will lead the church back to basics in a sense.”

Through news reports, Schultz said he learned as cardinal in Buenos Aries, Pope Francis, the first of that name, sold the mansion designated for his use and moved into an apartment.

“He cooked his own meals, rode the bus. It was amazing to see how many people in Buenos Aires knew him,” Schultz said.

One report told the story of Pope Francis, then the cardinal, visiting an AIDS hospital in Buenos Aires and washing the feet of the patients. Washing the feet of the faithful is done every Holy Thursday during Lent, Schultz said, in remembrance of Jesus’ act of washing his apostles’ feet.

“This act indicates an attitude of service. What a profound symbol that is,” Schultz said. “He chose Saint Francis, someone who exudes prayerfulness and humility.

“I was talking to people here at Our Lady of Belen, and they were glued to the television. And when he first came out on the balcony, myself and so many other people were immediately touched by his humility.”

As far as the future direction of the church, Schultz said the doctrine of the church isn’t going to change because of any one pope.

“I don’t anticipate any huge changes, other than a push for more recognition of the poor and common people,” he said. “A phrase that occurred in my mind, and I have heard elsewhere, is he’s a pope of the people or the people’s pope. He won’t be taken away from his central role of leader of the people.”

Father James Marshall, pastor of San Clemente Catholic Church in Los Lunas, said he also heard reports of the new pope’s humbleness and humility.

“They reported that after his election, there was a chauffeured limousine waiting to take him to St. Peter’s Cathedral, but he rode on the bus with the rest of the cardinals,” Marshall said. “He paid his own hotel bill when he left, packed his own bags.”

Marshall said the pope’s choice of the name Francis is also in keeping with the times we live in.

“We live in similar times. God told St. Francis to go, rebuild the church. Francis took him literally and began building churches,” he said. “We live in similar times; our institutions are in decline.”

“When he was cardinal, he went out and talked to the people. True social justice is just being with the people, bringing Christ to the people. For many people, he was Christ to them.”

Since Pope Benedict XVI took to Twitter during his time as pope, Marshall said people are asking how Pope Francis will appeal to the youth.

“But it’s not the job of the church to be hip and current,” Marshall said. “I think what people are really asking is how he will use modern technology — media — to convey the ancient truths of the church.”

During Thursday Mass, Marshall said he told the congregation they may be seeing in this man as someone who is going to help bring about a renewal of the church and society, but they would have to wait to get to know him.

“Pope Benedict and Pope John Paul II laid the foundation that he will build upon,” he said. “Both of them were great men; all the men who have come before are special.

“It will take time to get to know (Pope Francis). We will know him better, know more about him as he begins to talk and write.”

Father Jose Hernandez, pastor of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Tomé, said he was excited to hear the new pope was from the Americas and near his birthplace of Puerto Rico.

Hernandez said with 115 cardinals, it was difficult to keep up with all of them, so he was not familiar with the new pope.

“It was interesting to find out he was a Jesuit. I studied with the Jesuits for 10 years,” Hernandez said. “They are an order that takes a vow of poverty and is known for working with the poor.”

Hernandez said in watching the new pope speak to people, people would get some insight to his personality.

“He is a very devout man, very close to Christ,” he said. “The comments from the parishioners have been very good. I haven’t heard anything negative about him.”

Pope Francis may change the structure of the church by placing less emphasis on it, Hernandez said.

“Sometimes it seems like there is too much. We need more spirituality,” he said. “We are surrounded by so many things not about Jesus. I think he is going to get away from that and create more spirituality in the clergy and in parishioners.”


-- Email the author at jdendinger@news-bulletin.com.