SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS / CBS News) — Bay Area Catholics reacted with surprise, joy and cheers on Wednesday at news that Argentine cardinal Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio had become the first pope from the Americas.
“Pope Francis is an extraordinary choice. Our new Holy Father combines a brilliant intellect with a heart that is both humble and loving,” proclaimed San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone. “A man from the Jesuit spirituality who takes the name of one of our most beloved saints, Francis–the namesake of our very own beloved city, San Francisco.”
The name Francis has never before been chosen as a papal moniker, but it has significance. In Catholic tradition, St. Francis of Assisi had a mystical vision of Jesus Christ, who told him to rebuild his church. Francis is also known for humility and a simple lifestyle; the Italian patron saint renounced his wealth and founded the Franciscan order of friars in 1290.
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Parishioners were at St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco for Noon mass as the news of the new pope broke. Surprise seemed to be the main reaction to the announcement that Bergoglio would succeed Pope Benedict XVI.
Gustavo Calderone was in the seminary in Columbia for seven and a half years and said he was waiting for this day.
“I was hoping maybe the Brazilian, but as a Latino-American I’m rejoiced,” he said.
Calderone said he also knows it’s a time of crisis for the church and he wonders how this new direction will play out with the old guard.
“I also know, based on my experience and reading in the papers, that the European cardinals were not ready for either a Latino or an African pope,” Calderone observed.
Others at the church said they were a little disappointed that it wasn’t one of the U.S. candidates selected.
Meanwhile in San Jose at St. Joseph’s Cathedral during their noon mass, parishioners applauded the news that their new pope was from South America.
Churchgoers said it was a good move given both the changing world and church, with one parishioner noting that there’s a particularly large group of Argentineans in the San Jose Diocese.
Papacy expert Eric Hanson, a professor at Santa Clara University, said the choice signified three key things to him.
“First, the focus on poverty and humility, second the focus on inter-religious dialogue. Some people don’t know that Francis was very engaged in dialogue with Islam in his life. And third, again the immigration experience. I think that’s really important,” Hanson said.
Much is made of Bergoglio’s humility. He gave up the grandiose setting of the cardinal’s residence in the Argentine capital for the trappings of a small apartment, utilizing public transit and preparing his own meals.
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