World Celebrates Election of Pope Francis

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
14 Mar 2013

Tim Fischer during his years as Ambassador to the Holy See

The election of a Jesuit who comes from a location a long way from Rome augurs well for some reform in the Curia in Rome and with the Vatican Bank, once and for all, says former Ambassador to the Holy See, Tim Fischer.

Speaking from Sri Lanka, Mr Fischer who is also a former Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the National Party told Catholic Communications he welcomed the election of Pope Francis.

Mr Fischer points to the fact that the new Pope is the first Jesuit to be elected pontiff, the first Pope to be chosen from Latin America. In addition, he says the new Pope is also the Argentinean born son of an Italian train driver and well-known for his compassion and work with the poor.

"I wish him well and say 'watch this space,'" Mr Fisher says.

No sooner had the Conclave of 115 Cardinals in the Sistine Chapel elected the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Borgoglio as the new leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics on their fifth and final vote than messages of good will and good wishes began pouring into the Vatican from the world's leaders as well as from those across Australia.

Among the first to offer his best wishes on behalf of himself, his wife Michelle and the people of USA was American President Barack Obama. This was quickly followed by congratulations to the new Pontiff from British PM, David Cameron and French President, Francois Hollande.

The President of Argentina, Cristina Kirchner, was also among the first of the international leaders to send a  message to the new Holy Father wishing him "good luck in his pastoral mission," describing this as an historic day for Latin America. 

Historic day PM Julia Gillard says of election of Pope Francis

"For the first time in 2,000 years of the history of the Church we have a Pope who comes from Latin America," she declared in a statement on her official web site.

On discovering the new Pope had taken the name of Francis in honour of St Francis of Assisi, she went on to express  her hope that this would be a message to the world's powers to deal with humanity according to love, justice, and equity.

"There isn't any Argentine who does not believe or wish for a better humanity where there is equality and fraternity," she said.

Here at home, Prime Minister Julia Gillard also welcomed what she called "historic" news of the world's first pontiff from Latin America and said the election of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires as Pope Francis was "an occasion of genuinely historic proportions, and an exciting day for Australian Catholics and perhaps especially for Catholics of Argentinean descent."

Leader of the Coalition, Tony Abbott said the election of the new Pope was momentous.

"It's a great day for the world's 1.2 billion Catholics," he told reporters in Queanbeyan this afternoon.

"It's a momentous day for the church."

Australian Provincial of the Society of Jesus, Fr Steve Curtin SJ

Earlier, Nationals Senate leader, Barnaby Joyce had told the Canberra Press Gallery that he was sure the Federal Opposition Leader would be very happy with the choice of Pope particularly as he is a Jesuit.

"I went to a Jesuit school, so I am very happy as well," he said and congratulated cardinals for taking into account the developing world by electing a Pope from Latin America.

"What it shows with the Catholic Church is that it is a dynamic institution, that it moves with the times and has not remained Euro-centric," Senator Joyce said and predicted the Papacy of Pope Francis would be one of "theological conservatism but social liberalism."

Together with politicians, presidents and prime ministers, leaders of other Christian denominations and faiths have also been quick to give their endorsement of the election of Pope Francis.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby offered his "warmest welcome" to the former Cardinal Bergoglio and speaking on behalf of the world's Anglican Communion, said he wished Pope Francis every blessing in the enormous responsibilities that he has assumed on behalf of Roman Catholics around the world.

"The election is also of great significance to Christians everywhere, not least among Anglicans. We have long since recognised-and often reaffirmed-that our churches hold a special place for one another. I look forward to meeting Pope Francis, and to walking and working together to build on the consistent legacy of our predecessors," he wrote in a letter to the new Pontiff and described Pope Francis as a compassionate pastor of real stature who has served the poor in Latin America, and whose simplicity and holiness of life is remarkable.

"He is an evangelist, sharing the love of Christ which he himself knows. His choice of the name Francis suggests that he wants to call us all back to the transformation that St Francis knew and brought to the whole of Europe, fired by contemplation and closeness to God," the Archbishop said told the English media this morning.

Jewish leaders have also sent their best wishes to Pope Francis and in Sydney, Chief Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence issued a statement saying the Jewish community prayed  the Almighty would endow the new leader of the 1.2 billion Catholic faithful with wisdom and strength.

"May Pope Francis continue God's work and his recent predecessors' initiatives towards social justice, the rapprochement of peoples, respect for the sanctity of human life.  May he be an advocate for peace," he said.

Pope Francis endorsed by leaders of the church and welcomed by politicans and world leaders

Among the Jesuit congregation of Australia, the Bishop of Port Pirie, the Most Rev Greg O'Kelly who became the first Australian Jesuit bishop in 2006, said Jesuits do not aspire to hold such positions of powers and that Pope Francis seemed overwhelmed and would still be coming to terms with his new role as Pope and Leader of the faithful.

"You could see when he came out on the balcony that he looked  overwhelmed," he said and added that by electing the world's first Jesuit Pope as well as the first to come out of South America, the new Pontiff would bring a fresh perspective to the Church.

Describing Pope Francis with deep spirituality and concern for social justice, Bishop O'Kelly believes one of the greatest challenges he will confront will be to restore confidence in the church and to show the world the Church is serious about reform.

Fr Steve Curtin, Provincial of the Society of Jesus in Australia said in a statement this morning that Jesuits across Australia and around the world "warmly welcome the election of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio as Pope."

"His 15 years as Archbishop of the very large diocese of Buenos Aires gives a very strong pastoral foundation for his new ministry as Pope Francis I," he said adding that Pope Francis' early training in the spirituality of St Ignatius of Loyola would have fostered in his life of prayer, a deep intimacy with God and with Jesus, and a desire to share in the mission of Christ to uphold the dignity of all people. We pray that he will always feel deeply loved and supported by God in his new office as universal pastor."

Fr Curtin said the new Pope had a very strong background as an advocate for human dignity and social justice, and that this advocacy had been matched by a notable simplicity of life style.

Senior Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence offers prayers and congratulations for new Pope

"The fact that he has been a Master of Novices and a Seminary Rector also point to strengths in the preparation of young people for ministry in the Church, and especially for ordained ministry. His interest in philosophy, literature and psychology suggests an insight into the human condition that will express itself in a deep pastoral understanding of the joys, hopes and struggles of ordinary people," he said.

At Caritas Australia, the aid and development arm of the Catholic Church, CEO Jack de Groot predicts Pope Francis will be a powerful influence in developing countries around the world where he would continue his fight and advocacy for the rights of the poorest of the poor.

"He is a man of passion, simplicity coupled with a strong heart for the poor and is also a strong advocate globally for social justice and upholding human dignity," Mr de Groot says.

At the Seminary of the Good Shepherd, Homebush, prayers have been offered for the new Pope and for the Papacy of Pope Francis.

"The idea of the Conclave is to choose the best man. And obviously the Cardinals picked the best man!" says Rector of the Seminary, Fr Anthony Percy and gives his whole-hearted endorsement of the choice that has resulted in the election of Argentinean born, Pope Francis.

"The pope is the centre of unity for the Church. A man of God from South America is novel and welcome since we need a man of God who knows the 'new world' well," he says and believes the world's first  Jesuit Pope will ensure "we are led into an affective and tender relationship with Jesus - very important in our world thirsting for God who is 'Rich in Mercy.'"

Rector Percy also believes the new Pontiff's choice of name, is an indication of the need for simplicity and humility. "Choosing Francis after St Francis of Assisi may also be an indication of the Church's need to look outward in service, and not inward to our own internal problems," he says.