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Bishops, laypeople react to new Pope Francis

Posted By March 15, 2013 | 11:40 am | Featured Article #2
Bishop McManus celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving for Pope Francis on Thursday. Photo by Tanya Connor
Bishop McManus celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving for Pope Francis on Thursday. Photo by Tanya Connor

By Catholic Free Press Staff

Latin America has given the Church many vocations and saints, and today it has given to the Church another St. Francis Xavier, Bishop McManus said yesterday at a Mass at St. Paul Cathedral celebrating the election of Pope Francis.
The bishop noted that on the opening day of the St. Francis Xavier Novena at St. John Parish in Worcester last week he had said that a man on fire for the Gospel was needed, a man who knows first-hand what it means to be a missionary.
“And now that man is in the middle of the Church, showing us the face of Jesus,” he said. “Long live the pope.”
Bishops, priests and lay people expressed a variety of reactions when they learned that the Conclave of Cardinals had elected Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina as pope.
But all had one emotion in common. They all said they were happy with the choice.
Bishop Reilly asked for prayers for the new pope.
Jack P. Calareso, president of Anna Maria College, said the Holy Spirit was at work.
Father John Franck, A.A., credited the Holy Spirit with throwing a curve ball.
Father Thomas  Worcester, S.J., history professor at the College of the Holy Cross, said the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI was a factor in the selection of Pope Francis.
Holy Cross student Megan Whitacre, who was in St. Peter’s Square and saw Pope Francis when he made his first appearance, said the experience was incredible.
And Father Myles Sheehan, S.J., provincial of the New England Province, Society of Jesus, expressed the  pride of all Jesuits in welcoming Pope Francis, a fellow Jesuit, “with great joy and happiness.”
Here are some of the experiences, reactions and thoughts of several people when they learned of the election of Pope Francis:
“I’m very happy, surprised, actually,” Bishop McManus told The Catholic Free Press shortly after Pope Francis’ election was announced. “I thought it might have been Cardinal Scola of Milan.
“It’s the first non-European in modern times, first Jesuit, first time a pope took the name Francis. My spiritual response is: ‘This is a great moment of new beginnings.’” Bishop McManus said many in the crowd at St. Peter’s Basilica were young, and that Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI said repeatedly that the youth are a great source of inspiration in the Church.
“I just think it’s a wonderful moment in the life of the Church,” he said.
The bishop noted that some say the Church is irrelevant today. But, he said, “The entire world’s attention was focused on that balcony.”
“I am pleased beyond description,” he said. Asked why, he replied, “Forty-two percent of the Catholics in the world are in Latin America. The Church has taken deep roots in Latin America.” He said Latin American immigrants in the United States, including those in the Worcester Diocese, have given the Church vitality.
“I really see this election as a clear manifestation of the Holy Spirit guiding the Church.” He said he thought it would be very good for the new pope to have been an archbishop of a large archdiocese, which Pope Francis was, “so obviously he has a tremendous amount of pastoral experience.”
Speaking of the Jesuits, Bishop McManus said, “They’ve given the Church scholars and cardinals and saints, and now they’ve given one of their brothers as a pope. My congratulations to them.”
Asked about the fact that he asked participants at the St. Francis Xavier Novena at St. John Parish in Worcester last week to pray for a pope with the saint’s zeal for evangelization, Bishop McManus noted that he frequently speaks of human lives being directed by God’s providence. He said he hoped that was happening when he spoke of St. Francis Xavier’s missionary zeal and love for the Gospel.
“God is good,” he said.
In a statement issued by the diocese, the bishop called the election of the pope “a new day for the Catholic Church.
“We have  much to learn in the coming days and weeks ahead, but today our focus must be on praying in thanksgiving to God for the gift of our Holy Father, Pope Francis to the world. I invite all Catholics to follow our Holy Father’s first request that we pray for him, joining the people of Rome and of the world, that the Holy Spirit grant him the guidance and wisdom to guide the bark of Peter over the years. May he be our Father in Faith so that we may come to know Jesus Christ more closely during his pontificate.” The Bishop celebrated Mass for the new Pope Thursday at noon.


“It was a stunning thing when Pope Benedict announced his retirement,” Bishop Reilly said. “And then the Holy Spirit comes up with another amazing thing, a pope from the hierarchy from Latin America.”
The bishop said the new pope is perceived as a simple, intelligent, holy man.
He said it is “a great experience for the Catholic world to have the Holy Spirit leading us in the choice of the new pope, a cardinal from Latin America, from Argentina, now known to us and the world as Francis. He must be highly regarded by  the other cardinals to have been chosen on the 5th ballot.
“All Latin America must be very proud, and the Catholic Church around the world must be very pleased in this new pope, who will lead us in the years ahead.
“Let us all resolve to pray for him so that he may lead the Church with great success in these trying times. May the Holy Spirit guide and strengthen Pope Francis in his universal ministry, and  may the Church grow strong under his leadership, his prayer and his teaching.
“May God grant him many many happy years of faithful and strong leadership in the universal Catholic Church. Ad Multos Annos!”


Msgr. Thomas J. Sullivan, diocesan chancellor and pastor of Christ the King Parish, said, “I think it’s wonderful news. His background is extraordinary, a man of great simplicity and love for the poor. He has a commitment to the poor. At the same time, he is very committed to the Church, very doctrinal, very sound.
“I was very moved by his thanks, given to the people in St. Peter’s Square. He led them all together in the Lord’s Prayer and  he asked the people to bless him, all signs of humility and generosity of heart.”
Msgr. Sullivan said  the pope’s choice of the name Francis “is brilliant.” He said it shows that the pope identifies with “the poorest of the poor. It exemplifies a man who’s in love with the poor.”
The pope is a Jesuit. Msgr. Sullivan, who studied at the College of the Holy Cross, said he sent a note of congratulations to the Jesuit community.
Like many people, Jack P. Calareso, president of Anna Maria College, said he didn’t know a lot about the new pope. He said he remembered his name being mentioned during the election of Pope Benedict XVI.
He said he did do a little research when Pope Francis was selected, “and I want to learn more about him.”
He seems to be a pretty impressive person, President Calareso said, a simple, very holy man.
“The Holy Spirit was at work,” he said.
He also said he was “pleased and excited” that the new pope is from South America. It shows the growth of the Church worldwide and that it is a universal Church. He said he also congratulates the Jesuit community, to which he has many connections. He has graduate degrees from Boston College and Marquette University, his daughter went to Fordham and his son went the the College of the Holy Cross, all Jesuit schools.
President Calareso said he and his wife plan to be in Rome in a few weeks and hope to be able to attend a papal audience.

Jesuit Father John Gavin, an assistant professor in the religious studies department at the College of the Holy Cross, said he was giving a seminar class when the white smoke and announcement came. He and his students stopped to watch and “they got to see me practically faint with joy.”
While he never met Pope Francis, he learned about him from his Jesuit nephew, he said; he and the pope’s nephew worked on their doctorates together in Rome.
“His uncle is just a wonderful man,” Father Gavin said. “He became a Jesuit because of the model that his uncle provided him.
“I’m just thrilled with the choice. Even if he weren’t a Jesuit, I would be happy with this choice. Both as a spiritual leader and someone with great organizational skills, he’s just what the Church needs at this time. He’s the first pope from the Americas. He’s going to bring that experience with him as well.” He said Pope Francis is formed in the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius, the Jesuits’ founder.
“We’re just blown away by this at Holy Cross,” Father Gavin said. He said the choice was a surprise; Pope Francis was a very strong candidate in the last election, but fewer people were saying it this time.
“We as Jesuits take this vow to the pope, to be missioned wherever he sends us,” Father Gavin said. “Now that vow is to him. We trust in the guidance of the Holy Spirit that he will mission us well.”


Father Thomas Worcester, S.J., professor of history at the College of the Holy Cross, said he believes that the cardinals who selected Cardinal Bergoglio to be pope were willing to select a someone of his age – 76 – because of the precedent Pope Benedict XVI set by resigning.
“I believe it was directly related to Pope Benedict’s resignation,” he said.
He said that the cardinals may well feel that this pope can serve for eight or 10 years and then make way for new pope. He said it also is time  to have a pope from outside of Europe, from the Americas. Pope Francis is from Argentina.
Pope Francis is a simple, humble man, pastoral, and known for his work with the poor. Theologically “he is quite conservative,” Father Worcester said. “All the cardinals are.”
The fact that he is a Jesuit, Father Worcester said, is a connection to an older tradition in the Church of selecting popes who are members of religious orders.  The last pope who belonged to a religious order was Pope Gregory XVI, who died in 1846. Since then, no pope has been from a religious order until Pope Francis was chosen Wednesday.
Father Worcester said the new pope may soon explain why he chose the name Francis. It could be after St. Francis of Assisi, St. Francis Xavier, founder of the Jesuits, or another St. Francis.
One thing is certain. It won’t be to honor a previous Pope Francis, because he is the first one, Father Worcester said.
He also said the Jesuit community at Holy Cross was celebrating the naming of a Jesuit as pope Wednesday.
“It’s papal madness here,” he said.


“With great joy and gratitude to God, the New England Province of the Society of Jesus welcomes our new Holy Father, Francis,” said Father Myles Sheehan, S.J.
Father Sheehan is provincial of the New England Province of Jesuits.
“It is an extraordinary moment in the life of the Church,” he said.  “Although we are, of course, excited about the Holy Father’s Jesuit roots, we are more excited about his ministry to the Universal Church and pray for courage and wisdom for him as he begins this journey of faith.
“In a special way, the Holy Father,  who has, as a Jesuit, prayed the prayer known as the Suscipe, has now entered in a even more radical way into the meaning of this prayer of St. Ignatius, the founder of the Jesuits:
“‘Take Lord, receive all my liberty. Take my memory, my understanding, and my entire will. Whatsoever I have or hold, You have given me; I give it all back to You and surrender it wholly to be governed by your will. Give me only your love and your grace, and I am rich enough and ask for nothing more.’”

Students in Rome

“Since I am studying abroad in Rome this semester, I was very lucky to be standing in St. Peter’s Square when the white smoke went up last night,” said Megan Whitacre, a student at the College of the Holy Cross.      “My friend and I had actually been waiting in the square all day – since black smoke went up at 11:30 am.  We were wet and cold and ready to go home, but we forced ourselves to wait just another hour, and thank goodness we did.
“When the smoke started we could barely see it, but the crowd around us started to scream and run to the steps of the basilica.  It was, in a word, incredible.  I am struggling to find much more to say than that!  I am so shocked and awed and absolutely thrilled to have been there, to have been a part of it, and to have witnessed such a historic election.  I immediately called home, but couldn’t think of anything to say besides, ‘Oh wow, Dad, I’m here, I’m here!’
“Perhaps the most exciting moment for me was when we were waiting for the new Pope to appear.  I was standing right next to a Latin American priest and his parishioners, and they were all celebrating, crying, and raising chants of ‘Viva il Papa!’ and ‘Habemus Papam!’ before we even knew who the Pope was.
“Then, when it was announced that it was the cardinal from Argentina, everyone went crazy.  One of the women in the group realized he was also a Jesuit, and her shouts of ‘E Jesuita!’ started to pass through the crowd as well.  We all tried to talk to each other (all of us in bad Italian!), but mostly we just joined the chant and waited eagerly for Pope Francis.
“When Pope Francis appeared, the crowd went insane, and I was so happy to be a part of it.  He prayed with us, and then asked us to pray for him in silence … and silence really did sweep over the whole square.  It was beautiful.  Rome is never so quiet.
“After he extended his blessing and wished us all good night, most people lingered in the square, cheering and talking and praying.
“The feeling was incredible.  The whole night, the whole day was incredible.  I don’t know what else I can say!
“This truly was a day I will remember and cherish for the rest of my life.  My prayers are with Pope Francis and the Church – I am very excited to see where this new leadership will take us.”


“So the Holy Spirit has thrown us a curve ball, a new pope who wasn’t among the front-runners of all the experts and odds-makers (he wasn’t even among the top 10). Many people felt that his age, 76, was the major factor against his candidacy, even though it is common knowledge that he received a lot support during the last papal election,” said Father John Franck, A.A.
Father Franck, assistant general of the Augustinians of the Assumption in Rome, lived and served at Assumption College.
“What I find striking with this election is the following,” he said. “First, it took place rather quickly (only five ballots). Second, Cardinal Bergoglio is the first pope to take the name Francis but we do not yet know whether he did so because he wanted to honor Francis of Assisi or Francis Xavier – Francis of Assisi because he wanted to emphasize the need for peace in today’s war-torn world and simplicity given the scandals he must address, or Francis Xavier, a fellow Jesuit, in this age of the new evangelization where the Church needs a new spirit of mission.
“Perhaps, he had multiple reasons that he will share with us soon.
“Third, he is from Latin America, the home of the largest Catholic population in the world, at a time when the Church has had to face many challenges, not the least of which have been the rise of evangelicals and political and economic stability. As archbishop of Buenos Aires, he has had to address all of these issues.
“Finally, he is a Jesuit, the first Jesuit ever to fill the shoes of Peter. As is well known, Jesuits take a fourth vow of obedience to the Roman Pontiff with regard to mission; so it may be said that Cardinal Bergoglio’s whole life as a Jesuit has fostered in him a great respect for the papacy and a desire to serve the Church.
“As Pope Francis urged us from the balcony of St. Peter’s tonight, now is a time to pray for him, that he might be a courageous, wise, and faithful successor of Peter.”
Patricia Quintilani, who owns Shower of Roses Religious Shop in West Boylson and is director of the Worcester Chapter of World Apostolate of Fatima, said she “got a ton of phone calls” asking her what she thought about the election of the new pope.
One customer, she noted, was upset Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston wasn’t elected.
However, Mrs. Quintiliani is happy with the results. “It seems like he’s going to be a wonderful Pope,” she said.
In the weeks leading up to the conclave, Mrs. Quintiliani said she gave out more than 100 prayer cards specially printed for the election.
She also “adopted” a cardinal. A recent internet petition at encouraged the faithful to spiritually adopt a cardinal to pray for. As of yesterday, 552,383 people had done so, according to the site.
Mrs. Quintiliani said the cardinal chosen for her was Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, for whom she prayed a decade of the rosary every day.
Linda Kinsey of Leominster heads up the Pro-Life Committee at St. Anna parish in Leominster. Mrs. Kinsey said she decided not to adopt a cardinal. Instead, she prayed for them all.
“I thought that all of them needed our prayers,” she explained.
Mrs. Kinsey said she was surprised a new pope was selected this quickly. She said Pope Francis looked very humble when he appeared on the balcony. “There’s such a simplicity to him,” she added.
Anthony Zamarro, president of the G. K. Chesterton Society of Worcester and also a parishioner of Christ the King Parish, said, “I’m very excited.”
He said Pope Francis has a reputation for simplicity. Mr. Zamarro noted that it had been reported that he opted not to live in a large house, but instead chose a small apartment, and that he takes public transportation in Buenos Aires.
“I just found that really heartening,” said Mr. Zamarro.
Mr. Zamarro said the fact that the new Pope is Latin American will show people inside the Church, as well as non-Catholics, “how diverse we are.”
Father Emerito Ortiz is pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish in Fitchburg, which shares the name of the new pope.
Also, many of his parishioners are from Latin America, where Pope Francis was born and raised.
However, Father Ortiz pointed out that he is not just the first pope from Latin America. He is the first pope from the Americas, both North and South.
“My belief is that the Catholic faith came to America over 500 years ago,” he said. “The seed was planted and the fruit has been collected now.”