June 19, 2013
Latin Americans hail Francis as man to lead Church
Across Latin America, the faithful rejoiced that the new Pope Francis was one of them.
Even though some commentators said he had a reputation as being as conservative and inflexible as his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, Latin Catholics celebrated that cardinals had, in Francis’ own words, gone “to the end of the world” to find him.
“A ‘Latino’ is more open to others, while a European is more closed. A change like this, with a Latin American, will be very important for us Latin Americans... (he will be) more open, more honest,” said 75-year-old Ana Solís, a retired hospital worker, outside Santiago’s Metropolitan Cathedral in Chile.
“I’m happy because another European pope would be like eating the same bread every day,” Martín Rodríguez, a 49-year-old Mexico City cab driver, said of Argentina’s Francis, the first non-European pontiff in nearly 1,300 years.
The cardinals had faced a tough task in the conclave in finding a leader capable of overcoming crises caused by priestly child abuse and a leak of secret papal documents that uncovered corruption and rivalry inside the Church government.
The new pope will take up a burden that Benedict declared in February was beyond his physical capabilities.
The reaction from Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny, who two years ago accused the Vatican of hampering an inquiry into child sex abuse by Irish priests, summed up the thoughts of many.
“We pray that he will have the strength, the good health and the spiritual guidance needed to lead the Catholic Church in the many challenges it faces,” Kenny said.
“I think they missed an opportunity to renew themselves: they’ve picked another old guy,” Daniel Villalpando, a 32-year-old web designer in Mexico City said. “Sure, he’s a ‘Latino,’ but they got the most European of the ‘Latinos.’
Home to 42 percent of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, Latin America far outweighs Europe’s 25 percent, although the Church has for years been losing ground to Protestant and evangelical rivals across the region.
Deise Cristina, 43, who attends Mass every week, hailed the Church for having broken “a taboo”, but said outside the cathedral in São Paulo, Brazil: “We are facing a lot of challenges now and I pray that the pope will help lead our youth back to the church.”
Donna Doucette, executive director of Voice of the Faithful, a group based outside Boston of lay Catholics that formed in reaction to the clergy sex scandals to advocate Church reform, said: “He certainly is not one who is a liberation theologian.”
“It remains to be seen whether he is a person of the 21st century or the 17th century,” she added.
For the faithful across the world though, his outlook mattered less, at least for now, than his origins and his quiet, calm demeanour as he was announced to the vast crowd in St Peter’s Square — thanking God for choosing such a messenger.
Claudio Giménez, head of the Roman Catholic church in Paraguay, said: “This is a benefit for all of Latin America, not just Argentina.”
Leonardo Steiner, general secretary of the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops, in Brasilia, said: “He’s a very humble man, very close to the people. We could perceive that in the way he asked for the prayer and leaned into the public.”
In Nigeria, where many had hoped for a first African pope, Father Raymond Anoliefo, the priest who runs Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Catholic Church, in Ibeju, on the outskirts of Lagos, said: “I’m very elated, emphatic, impressed.”
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he hoped Francis would continue to promote inter-faith dialogue.
The Russian Orthodox Church welcomed the election and hoped “that relations between the Orthodox and Catholic churches will develop in a positive spirit”, state-run RIA news agency quoted a spokesman for Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill as saying.
In Cuba, where church-state relations have warmed after years of tension and where Benedict paid a visit in 2012, President Raúl Castro sent a message of congratulations.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, daughter of a Lutheran pastor, said in a statement: “Millions of believers in Germany and the whole world were waiting for this moment. Their hopes now rest on the new pope.
The World Jewish Congress offered congratulations.