Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, 76, was elected the 266th pope on Wednesday. The news came as somewhat of a surprise, as he is the first Jesuit pope and first elected from the southern American hemisphere, where more than 40 percent of the world’s Catholics live.
Bergoglio, who has chosen the name Pope Francis, is expected to be a humble and strong leader of the Catholic world, grounded by his love for all. He is expected to be dedicated to education and devoted to the poor.
The Rev. Charles A. Hough III of Cleburne’s St. John Vianney Catholic Church said he expects the new pope to be humble, strong in his beliefs and caring of others.
“I think it’s significant that he has taken the name Pope Francis for Saint Francis of Assisi, who was one of the most beloved saints ever,” Hough said. “He was a great man of humility and strength. And that is what we are looking at.”
Bergoglio, the son of an Italian immigrant, does not come from an aristocratic background. He is known to ride the bus with locals, pray with the poor and spend time visiting with commoners. In other words, Hough said, he is “going to be a very approachable pope.”
The Rev. Mel Bessellieu of St. Ann Catholic Church in Burleson said everyone he’s talked to is “very excited and very happy.”
“I think the College of Cardinals did a fantastic job in choosing Francis I to be our next pope,” he said. “To choose a Latin American pope is a good move on their part.”
The Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth Monsignor Stephen Berg said in a press release that the diocese looks forward to Francis leading “all Catholics and people of good will, in celebration of God’s greatest gift to mankind, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ his son, during the Easter observances to come.”
Though Hough said he was “initially stunned” by the conclave’s vote, he was “happy and thankful” that a “new worlder” had been chosen to lead Catholics into the foreseeable future.
Hough said when Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation last month that Catholics expected a younger, more youthful pope to step in. At the end of his papacy, Benedict was 86. Elected in 2005 at the age of 78, Benedict cited declining health as the driving force behind his decision to step down.
“[Francis is] a little older, and that surprised me a little bit,” Hough said. “But that lets us know that his personal holiness and his humility and strength is what he’s standing for.”
Bessellieu said he was not at all concerned with the new pope’s age, as he seems to be someone who takes good care of himself and appears youthful. He said he expects Pope Francis to lead the Catholics for at least a decade. He also said he was glad to finally have a pope to pray for.
“Wednesday, when I was praying with the Carmelite nuns in Arlington, we were praying for a pope in the morning,” he said. “At evening mass, we were praying for the pope. We haven’t been able to pray for pope so-and-so, we had to pray for the College of Cardinals. So now we have a pope. Habemus papam.”
This report contains
The Associated Press.