The 115 cardinals participating in this week’s papal conclave made history Wednesday when they elected Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio to succeed Pope Benedict XV as the 266th pope.
Bergoglio, who upon taking the Papacy selected the name Francis, was selected during the fifth ballot on the conclave’s first full day, according to a Catholic News Service release.
“The Latin American pope, a Jesuit, was chosen by at least two-thirds of the 115 cardinals from 48 countries,” the release said.
The Courier sought comment from the Rev. Thomas J. Murphy, pastor of St. Stephen, First Martyr Catholic Church in Hinesville, but administrative secretary Judy McGonagle deferred to the diocese.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Savannah Bishop Gregory Hartmayer on Wednesday offered a reflection after the news spread worldwide. A mass was slated for noon Thursday at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist to celebrate Mass for the election of the pope.
“First of all, I think this is a very exciting time for the whole world,” Hartmayer said in a webcast statement.
Hartmayer, a member of the Franciscan Order, reflected on the Jesuit cardinal’s name selection.
“He could have very easily taken the name of a Jesuit saint, but instead he took the name of Saint Francis, the first pope to do so,” Hartmayer said. “And yet, Saint Francis [of Assisi] is such a popular saint in the whole world, very recognizable, and yet no pope has ever chosen to taken the name. I think our new Pope Francis took the name to represent the kind of ministry and the kind of attention that his papacy is going to take.”
Francis, 76, had been archbishop of Buenos Aires since 1998, and he is known as a low-key leader who “rides the bus, visits the poor, lives in a simple apartment and cooks his own meals.”
He is a vocal opponent of abortion and same-sex marriage and has written books on spirituality and meditation. He also has created new parishes, restructured the administrative offices, led pro-life initiatives and started new pastoral programs, such as a commission for divorcees. He co-presided over the 2001 Synod of Bishops and was elected to the synod council, so he is well-known to the world’s bishops.
“By being a member of a continent that represents 40 percent of the world’s Catholics and yet probably millions and millions among the poorest in the world on that continent, I think perhaps we’re going to see a different attitude and emphasis on the Papal ministry throughout the world,” Hartmayer said. “I think we have a lot to look forward to.”