Local Roman Catholics are eager to see how Pope Francis [Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio] — with a reputation of being a humble man of the people — will lead the Roman Catholic Church.
The newly elected pontiff has spent a lifetime serving in Latin America, home to the largest portion of the church’s 1.2 billion Catholics. He is known for living a simple life, which has included living in a small apartment, riding the bus and cooking his own meals.
Although he is known for modernizing the Argentine church, he supports celibacy and is considered to be conservative on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage.
Debbie Sesek, a parishioner at St. Hilary in Fairlawn, is hopeful that his background and personality will foster unity among a diverse group of people rooted in the same faith. She was particularly impressed by the new pope’s asking the people to bless him before he extended a blessing to the people.
“It was very moving. For me, it was a sign of humility and a sign that he believes that everyone has a need for prayer,” said Sesek, of Bath Township. “I hope that his taking the name Francis is symbolic of the message that it is in giving that we receive. I hope he will be an example of giving of ourselves to each other. I’m hopeful and prayerful that he will be open and reach out to all, particularly women and young people, and that he comes in the same spirit of forgiveness and helping others that Jesus modeled.”
Sesek, like so many others, immediately related the pope’s name, Francis, to St. Francis of Assisi [founder of the Franciscan order and a man with a heart for the poor]. Others have speculated that it could also be rooted in St. Francis Xavier [co-founder of the Society of Jesus, or Jesuits and a Christian missionary].
The Rev. John King, alumni chaplain and a teacher of social justice at Walsh Jesuit High School in Cuyahoga Falls, is hopeful that the name includes both. King entered the Jesuit order in 1950.
“It’s exciting to me as a Jesuit to have the first-ever Jesuit pope. I know very little about him but I hope he will be a social justice pope who will reach out to the poor and neglected,” King said. “The fact that he’s never lived in Rome may signal that he will bring a different perspective to the Vatican. I am thrilled that he is from Latin America. I was hoping for a pope from Africa or South America because he understands the view of a great majority of our global church.”
The Rev. Paul J. Rosing, pastor at Holy Family Parish in Stow, said he is happy to have a leader who has lived a “normal, humble life.” He said he expects his appeal to extend beyond the Catholic Church and Christian community, much like that of St. Francis of Assisi.
“A lot of people, who aren’t even Christian, see Francis of Assisi as someone who they connect to God and holiness. He is also known to have been asked by God to rebuild, or reform, His church. That is going to be part of the job that our Pope Francis needs to do,” said Rosing. “I’m hopeful that his election signals a new birth, a new evangelicalism. I hope he will bring life, hope and trust to the church and a personal magnetism to help people connect with a living God.”
Greg Friedl, a parishioner at St. Mary’s, said he believes the Holy Spirit worked in the process of electing the new pope.
“I am pleased that a shepherd was chosen from the sheep. He lives a life of poverty, chastity and obedience. He’s not right. He’s not left. He’s perfect for the world,” said Friedl, of Green. “This is the work of the Holy Spirit. Now let’s see what happens and how he leads the church.”
Colette Jenkins can be reached at 330-996-3731 or firstname.lastname@example.org