May 25, 2013
Election astounds country
By Santiago Del Carril, Herald staff.-
Argentines were in complete disbelief yesterday after the Vatican announced the election of the first ever Latin American pope, the Argentine Jesuit Jorge Mario Bergoglio. Church bells immediately began to throng throughout the whole country.
People gathered in several churches, crying with elation, absolutely thrilled by the news. In a country whose majority of inhabitants are Roman Catholic, people could be seen praying in the streets and chanting “Argentina, Argentina.”
Chants of “Latino, Latino” were interwoven with prayers and even the pope’s new given name was shouted: “Francis I, we love you.”
The former Cardinal had not been considered as a serious candidate, with many people believing that the 76-year-old Church leader was too old for the post. But with his appearance in the balcony wearing the pope’s traditional white cloak all doubts were cast aside. Within minutes from the announcement people began to tweet in reference to Diego Maradona’s infamous goal “The hand of God, again.”
A young priest Daniel Quevedo, on the steps of the Cathedral, said that Argentine priests were absolutely elated by the announcement. “This is just marvelous, a gift from the Holy Spirit not only for the Argentine Church but for the whole world.”
Another man who was in a suit watching the whole spectacle started to tear up when speaking “This is a surprise, he was ranked 41st out of the possible candidates to become pope. God works in mysterious ways.”
The Plaza de Mayo, long the historic heart of the city, where Argentines have manifested themselves in the most important periods of Argentine history, the speeches given by Juan Perón, the Malvinas War, the soccer World Cup win of 1986, and several protests and social upheavals in its past, once again became a place for people to gather as the news started to sink in.
Two Brazilian tourists said that they were enormously happy over the significance it had for Brazil and all of Latin America, especially since in September the pope is planning to visit Sao Paulo. “We are full of emotion,” they said.
A Malvinas War veteran, sitting on a bench at the side of the Plaza de Mayo who has been living for five years in the city centre demanding extra compensation from the government, said he was happy about Bergoglio’s election. “The pope has helped our movement, always writing letters to the government in support of our cause.” Yet there also were people not happy at the election.
A 50-year-old man named Sergio Isaza who was waiting for a formal speech to be given said that the appointment was terrible news. “Bergoglio helped cover up what happened in the last dictatorship,” Isaza said. He was referring to the 1976-1982 military dictatorship in the country.
The journalist Horacio Verbitsky accuses the newly-elected pope of covering up the Church’s complicity in the human rights abuses during the dictatorship.
Other critics say that he has not done anything about a child molestation case involving Julio Grassi, a priest of his diocese who was freed by the court although he had been convicted to 15 years in prison for his alleged crimes.
But what everyone was in accord about with the new Argentine pope was that he is a very austere man. A priest who did not give his name at the Cathedral said that he would be a great help in putting order in the Catholic Church.
“He is a humble man; he takes the public transport, doesn’t have a TV in his room, and lives in a small bleak room in the city centre. I think he will be a good asset in helping the Church that has some problems,” he said.
Argentina, though a nominally Catholic country, has in the past few years been very active in passing new laws that go against the Catholic Church’s doctrine such as the legalization of gay marriage.
The Cathedral only the day before had been occupied by protesters saying that extra government funding of Catholic schools was unfair, and that secular and schools of other denominations should also receive the same treatment. Buenos Aires City taxi driver Gustavo, who seems to be representative of the majority of Argentines who weren’t demonstrating on the streets put it the best. “Look, I don’t know the guy. Hopefully he will change the feeling of the Church and change all its turmoil. But we’ll see what happens.”
Last night, thousands celebrated at Plaza de Mayo.