V.I. Catholic leaders express elation over election of Latin American pope
Published: March 14, 2013
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ST. THOMAS - Local Catholic leaders expressed joy and optimism Wednesday after Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the 76-year-old archbishop of Buenos Aires, became the first non-European pope in modern times.
Jose Vazquez, a deacon of Ss. Peter and Paul Cathedral who is from Puerto Rico, said he felt that with the election the Church is specially recognizing its populations in Spanish-speaking countries.
"I feel happy, happy, happy about this election," Vazquez said. "I believe it was time for one from Latin America to come out."
The lead-up to the papal conclave took place amid speculation about whether the College of Cardinals would elect a charismatic pastor or a capable administrator.
Bishop Herbert Bevard of the Diocese of St. Thomas said he sees both characteristics in Pope Francis.
"He would be a combination of great empathy for the poor and a great promoter of that work of the Church, but at the same time, he was an archbishop of a diocese with millions and millions of Catholics, so he would have to be able to administer," Bevard said.
Masses this weekend in the diocese will include prayers of thanksgiving for the swift election of a new pope, the bishop said.
Monsignor Jerome Feudjio of Ss. Peter and Paul Cathedral said the election of a non-European represents the truly universal nature of the Church, and Pope Francis' work in Argentina, especially among its poor, would give him a fresh perspective.
"He will bring a new perspective because, being from Argentina, he knows how people struggle in that part of the world, which is not always the same as in Europe," Feudjio said. "He is used to dealing with an area where the faith is vibrant and where they have more and more Catholics. The faith in South America is well pronounced as well as in Africa and in the Third World in general."
Feudjio said Pope Francis was chosen during a difficult period for the Church.
"I am already impressed with the courage that he demonstrates by accepting to lead the Church at this time when it is faced with many problems," Feudjio said. "I believe that he has a strong faith because he has to have a strong faith to lead the Church at this time."
Feudjio said the new pope's background in pastoral work makes him well-suited to continue the "new evangelization work" of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI.
The new evangelization initiative seeks to bring the faithful into a closer relationship with Christ.
- Contact Amanda Norris at 714-9104 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.