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Roanoke Valley Catholics welcome ‘new type of pope’
They said the Jesuit, Spanish-speaking pontiff will appeal to many in area congregations.
Pope Francis waves to the crowd from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican today. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, who chose the name of Francis, is the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church.
Pope Francis, chosen during the conclave Wednesday, is the first pope from the Americas.
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Bells rang out from atop a hill in Roanoke on Wednesday, mimicking the scene in Rome as white smoke escaped from a chimney and signaled that the Roman Catholic Church had selected a new leader.
St. Andrew’s Catholic Church on Jefferson Street rang its church bells shortly after the smoke announced that the cardinals in Vatican City had chosen a new pope. Next door, at Roanoke Catholic School, junior Josh Frost heard the bells between his sixth- and seventh-period classes.
At first, he thought it was a funeral, which is one of the more common reasons the church rings the bells. But word spread fast, Frost said, that the sounds were celebratory — a new pope had been chosen.
“I saw it from the Vatican Twitter feed,” he said. “I saw the white smoke alert.”
In seventh period, a math class for Frost, students anxiously watched the scene in Vatican City. And when Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio emerged as Pope Francis , he produced a number of firsts for the church.
After Mass on Wednesday evening, members of St. Andrew’s gathered for the soup supper they put on each Wednesday during Lent. Mary Asbury said her grandparents came to America from Mexico. She said Bergoglio, a native Spanish speaker of South America, ushers in a new beginning for a church that has gone through a lot in the past 20 years.
“I think he’s going to be a new type of pope,” Asbury said.
He is the first non-European pope in the modern era, as well as the first Jesuit pope and the first pope to take the name Francis.
The Rev. Rene Castillo, of St. Gerard Catholic Church on Orange Avenue, was driving home when he heard on the radio that Bergoglio had been chosen as pope. He said he was pleasantly surprised at the selection.
“It seems that the predictions are always way off,” Castillo said by telephone while returning from a meeting in Richmond. “The Holy Spirit always springs a surprise. You never know what God is thinking.”
Castillo’s parish has a large number of Spanish-speaking parishioners, most of them Mexicans. The priest believed that many of his church’s congregants will be thrilled with the selection of a pope who speaks Spanish as his native language.
“I think they will be happy, but not all Spanish-speaking countries are united in all things,” said Castillo, who was born in the Philippines. “Mexicans might wish that he was Mexican. But I think they will be happy about the place he comes from in Latin America.”
Ginny Garza, a St. Andrew’s member who is also from the Philippines, said Bergoglio comes from a different world because of his work in developing nations.
“I think he will bring a different point of view because of his experiences,” Garza said. “He is big on social justice.”
She also pointed out his Jesuit affiliation.
“I’m excited he’s a Jesuit. Jesuits are traditionally movers and groovers,” she said. “He will be moving the church forward.”
Castillo said the Jesuit order is known for loyalty to the church and a giving spirit. He noted Bergoglio’s work with the poor in Buenos Aires.
“He is kind of earthy,” Castillo said. “He has a real human touch. I think his election means the church is headed for great hopes.”
Other priests who had been in Richmond for a meeting, like Castillo, could not be reached while they traveled.
At St. Andrew’s, Linda Bennett urged the ringing of the bells. She said church staff members were watching and listening to broadcasts from the Vatican throughout the day, awaiting the news. Bennett, the church’s coordinator of parish community life , also correctly predicted that the pope would choose the name Francis.
She said St. Francis of Assisi, possibly the pope’s namesake, was her favorite saint. Bennett said he was known for living a simple life devoted to building up the church, and his legacy seemed apparent in the calm disposition of Pope Francis as he was introduced.
“That’s humility,” she said. “When he came out, he just stood.”
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