The papal conclave’s March 13 decision made history when the cardinals chose the first pope to be both from the Americas and a Jesuit; the Argentinian pope made history again by choosing a name in honor of St. Francis of Assisi.
Within minutes of the news being announced that Wednesday afternoon, media outlets began contacting the Provincial Office, said Jocelyn Thomas, HNP director of communications. “No sooner had we watched the announcement on television than I received calls from newspapers and TV stations asking to set up interviews with friars. It was exciting to see the interest in the Franciscan friars that the papal selection generated.”
In the days following the conclave, Pope Francis has elicited feelings of hope and renewal through his words and actions.
“Of the 1.2 billion Catholics in the world, one in four is in Central and South America,” said Christopher Keenan, OFM, chaplain for the New York City Fire Department, in an article from Bayside-Douglaston Patch. “It’s appropriate that he chose the name Francis because he has a great passion for justice and for the poor.”
Parishioners of St. Paul’s Parish in Wilmington, Del., received the news of the election of the first Latin American pope with “great joy,” according to pastor Todd Carpenter, OFM.
“St. Paul’s is almost an entirely Latino parish. Even though we do not have any parishioners from Argentina, they are overjoyed with Pope Francis. They expressed their delight in his choice of name, too,” Todd said. “What has impressed them most has been the great humility he has shown in his first week as our pope and the stories that have emerged of his time as archbishop of Buenos Aires.”
In Bolivia, HNP alumnus Ignatius Harding, OFM, also felt the great joy that swept across many hearts in the Catholic world following the election.
“His asking for prayers and a blessing from the people assembled in St. Peter’s Square, his gesture of receiving the ring of Paul VI, using his own shoes, and coming out after Sunday Eucharist to meet all the faithful are very meaningful to Latin Americans and I believe to all,” Ignatius said. “He will do a great service to all our Franciscan family as his life and ministry challenge us to follow Clare and Francis and rebuild the Church, starting with each one of us personally.”
James Vacco, OFM, pastor of St. Bonaventure Parish in Allegany, N.Y., also thought the pope’s first actions were significant, according to the Olean Times Herald.
“When he first appeared on the loggia, you could see on his face how overwhelmed he was,” James said. “But then he warmed right up. What impressed me regarding his spirituality and humility is the first thing he did was ask the people to pray for him and receive their blessing, and then he bowed before them in gesture of humble service. That, to me, spoke volumes.”
Provincial Vicar Dominic Monti, OFM, in a panel discussion that aired on FOX News on March 13, expressed his belief that the conclave’s selection signals a return to the basic fundamentals of the Catholic faith, rather than peripheral issues.
“I think what you’re going to see with this new pope is a deep concentration on the basic reality of our faith, which is commitment to Jesus Christ and his teachings and message,” said Dominic who is known for his expertise in Church history.
‘People, Peace, the Planet and the Poor’
A Buffalo, N.Y., television report captured the excitement of students, friars and staff at St. Bonaventure University. In a piece that aired March 14, Francis Di Spigno, OFM, executive director of university ministries, said, “The majority of people I’ve spoken to, particularly here in this Franciscan atmosphere, are ecstatic that he took the name Francis.” The pope’s name will symbolize the message of the Franciscans, according to Francis, who said, “we are very much concerned about people, peace, the planet and the poor.”
Kevin Downey, OFM, pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Triangle, Va., also sees the significance of the name Pope Francis chose.
“My hope is that he sees his role is to rebuild the Church,” Kevin told InsideNova.com. “I think he is someone who will refocus the Church on what we should be focused on … ministering to the poor.”
David Convertino, OFM, executive director of HNP’s office of development, anticipates that the pope will do just that, according to the Boston Herald.
“It seems clear to me that what you have is a Franciscan’s humility coupled with a Jesuit’s intellect. That sounds like a winning combination to me,” David said. “He could bring Francis’s simplicity to the hierarchy of the Church and with it, a real sense of joy.”
— Maria Hayes is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.