The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

March 15, 2013

The first impressions of Pope Francis are promising


Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Dennis Rodman didn’t get his wish of the first black pope, but first impressions of the newly elected pontiff are promising.

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 pope also asked the people to bless him before receiving his first blessing.

The Rev. Joseph Irwin, the pastor of Saint Francis Xavier Catholic Church, said Argentine Jorge Bergoglio is a “fantastic” surprise to follow Pope Benedict XVI.

The local church hosts a Spanish mass every Sunday, and an estimated 300 Hispanic families regularly attend the parish.

The symbolic selection of the name Francis is interesting. It evokes the 13th century Italian St. Francis of Assisi, known for peace, poverty and simplicity. It also brings to mind Francis Xavier, a 16th century founder of the Jesuit order known for scholarship and outreach.

The 76-year-old Bergoglio is the first Jesuit, first Latin American and first person from the New World to serve as pope. He’s also the son of middle-class Italian immigrants.

We’re watching history unfold. With the unprecedented retirement of a sitting pope, we wonder how soon we’ll be through selection process again considering the new pontiff’s age.

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

Regardless of your spirituality, the process is fascinating to watch. We hope Pope Francis can fortify the credibility of a church rocked by sex-abuse scandals and bring some wayward Catholics back into the fold.

Elevating a cardinal from the Americas is a step in the right direction. Latin America comprises 40 percent of the globe’s Roman Catholics.