TRAVERSE CITY — Area priests praised the selection of the new pope, and said his Latin American origins and historic embrace of poverty are a blessing to the church.
Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina was elected pope Wednesday and chose the name Francis. He became the first pontiff from outside Europe in more than a millennium.
The Rev. Mariano Dellagiovanna, who serves two Leelanau County parishes, said he is happy to see someone from his native country, although he doesn’t know Pope Francis.
“I think it will help us much more, especially here in North America, to see the church is something from the whole world. It’s universal,” he said.
Bishop Bernard Hebda of the Diocese of Gaylord called it a “wonderful reflection of the life we find in the church in Latin America,” home to half of the world’s Catholics.
“It’s a great recognition of the church in Latin America and what it offers to the rest of the universal church,” he said.
Looking stunned, Francis shyly waved yesterday to the crowd of tens of thousands of people who gathered in St. Peter’s Square. He marveled that the cardinals needed to look to “the end of the earth” to find a bishop of Rome.
In choosing a 76-year-old pope, the cardinals clearly decided that they didn’t need a vigorous, young pope who would reign for decades but rather a seasoned, popular pastor who would draw followers to the faith.
“When he began to speak, he spoke with great tenderness. I was really moved,” Hebda said. “Before giving his blessing, he asked for a moment of prayer for him. A humble, humble act, and really a recognition that his responsibility will require the prayers of the whole church.”
The Rev. Michael Janowski of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Lake Leelanau also encouraged prayers.