The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local and State News

March 13, 2013

Local reaction to new pope: Bergoglio a ‘fantastic’ surprise

ENID, Okla. — The pastor of Saint Francis Xavier Catholic Church said he is “very positive” about Argentine Jorge Bergoglio’s election as Pope Francis.

Bergoglio is a “fantastic” surprise to follow Pope Benedict XVI, the Rev. Joseph Irwin said Wednesday.

“No one really saw it coming,” Irwin said.

Bergoglio is the first Jesuit, first Latin American and first person from the New World to serve as pope, Irwin said. The archbishop of Buenos Aires is the son of middle-class Italian immigrants and once studied engineering.

A runner-up in the 2005 conclave, Bergoglio, 76, is the first pontiff to adopt the name of the Italian Saint Francis, known for peace, poverty and simplicity.

“He would take the train,” Irwin said of the new pope. “He has a very clear sense of service.”

Irwin said Pope Francis made a humble statement by appearing in a white cassock, the traditional papal garment, without an accompanying red “mozetta,” a waist-length cape. The new pontiff also asked the people to bless him before receiving his first blessing.

Oklahoma City’s archbishop said the selection of a pope from the New World was a “wonderful surprise,” but he didn’t know what agenda the new pontiff would take to the Vatican.

“We will see what he chooses to address as his priorities,” Archbishop Paul S. Coakley said during a news conference following Bergoglio’s election.

“What he will be for all of us is a sign of unity and the living icon of the person of Jesus Christ,” Coakley said. “His responsibilities are to guide the church in the ways of holiness.”

About 1 in 5 people worldwide are Catholic — about 1.2 billion people — but in Oklahoma only about 5 percent of the population is Catholic. The Glenmary Research Center said in 2010 there were 178,430 Catholics in the state.

“It’s a big surprise to have an American, albeit a Latin American, sitting in the chair of Peter, and governing the church as the vicar of Christ and the bishop of Rome,” Coakley said.

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