CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/14 March) – Elation has swept the clergy across Mindanao following the election Wednesday of 76-year old Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio of Argentina as the new pope.
Monsignor Rey Monsanto, parish priest of Nazareno parish in Cagayan de Oro hailed it as a sign that the Roman Catholic Church has finally become a “universal church”.
Monsanto said they are glad that a non-Italian or non-Vatican insider was elected to lead the 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide.
“This has opened the Vatican and the papacy to other nationalities now. We can have a pope from Asia or somewhere else. The Church has become a truly become a universal church,” he said.
Bergoglio, who entered the conclave this week as the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, was elected the 266th pope and the first non-European to hold the position after over 1000 years.
Also the first Jesuit to become the supreme pontiff, he has chosen to be called Pope Francis, which observers said fits his preference for a simple life.
St. Francis of Assisi, from whom Bergoglio apparently took his papal name, left a life of wealth and luxury to become one of the most inspiring figures of the 2,000-year old church.
Bergoglio succeeded Pope Benedict XVI who resigned effective February 28 but has chosen to remain inside the Vatican. Reports said Francis got the second highest number of votes during Benedict’s election as pope in 2005.
The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines also welcomed the election of Pope Francis saying it is “a happy surprise that a cardinal outside Europe was chosen for the post.”
“We are happy that we have a new pope and like many others, we also accept the surprise that he is not European,” Archbishop Jose Palma, CBCP president said in a statement.
“Like all Christians, we are invited to give our full trust to him and give our allegiance to him and help him in all his programs,” he said.
Monsignor Eutiquiano Legitimas of Cagayan de Oro said he was impressed that Bergoglio did not wear the traditional red shoulder cape or a mozzetta when he appeared for the first time on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica.
Instead, the Argentinian cardinal who is known for his humble lifestyle wore a simple white robe when he greeted the huge crowd outside that was waiting for the new pope to address them.
“You see how simple our new Pope is. I think the entire Church will follow his humbleness and simplicity,” Legitimas said, adding he expects the new Pope to steer the Church to actively pursue social issues like poverty and the effects of globalization on Third World countries.
He said Bergoglio has vehemently opposed gay marriage and birth control and earned the ire of the Argentinian government when he sharply criticized the free distribution of contraceptives.
“Pope Francis is the right man to challenge government systems on birth control. We expect the Church to become active on these issues,” Legitimas said.
Malaybalay Bishop Jose A. Cabantan also said that Bergoglio is close to the poor and his election shows the “catholicity” or universality of the church as he comes from Latin America.
Cabantan noted that Basic Ecclesial Communities originated in Latin America.
The bishop cited that Pope Francis, when he was still a cardinal, was one of those who opposed same sex marriage in Argentina and reprimanded priests who refused to give baptism sacraments to children
born to unwed mothers.
But he said the new pope will have to face many challenges, including the tainted image of the church after some priests were accused of pedophilia and other sex abuse cases.
Fr. Eduardo Vasquez of the Kidapawan parish said he expects Pope Francis to show his conservative stand against women who want to become priests.
He said the issue is anathema to the patriarchal nature of a Church that even frowns on the idea of allowing female lay members to distribute the Eucharist during communions.
“The female Kaabag is a big issue among bishops here. Many opposed the idea. That is how conservative our Church is. How much more if the issue isabout women priests? The Church will be divided,” he said.
Vasquez said Bergoglio’s papacy will usher in a new dawn for missionary priests because he is inclined to work for peace and the poor.
Fr. Jonathan Domingo of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate agreed that missionaries will find more support from the Vatican under the new Pope.
“Cardinal Bergoglio comes from Argentina and Latin America where the theories of social liberation originated. He might be a moderate but his teachings are inclined to serving the poor above all else,” Domingo said.
“Hope for the church, reform and deeper faith among the faithful. My prayer is the pope, with his humble beginnings and simplicity of life, emanates in the church and her hierarchy, following the paths of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Francis Xavier,” he added.
Fr. Peter Geremia, assistant parish priest and coordinator of IP organizations in Arakan, North Cotabato said: “Mabuhay ang bagong Papa. In love daw siya kay Lady Poverty tulad ni Francis of Assissi. May paninindigan siya for Justice and Peace then against the dictators. Dala niya ang diwa sa theology of liberation. Ganito ang pagkakilala ko sa kanya noon pa (sa mga readings). Prayer na magpahiusa sa simbahan, sa diwa ni Francis at mag-dialogue sa tanan, sama kay Francis.
Fr. Roberto Layson, parish priest of Kulaman, Senator Ninoy Aquino town, Sultan Kudarat called Bergoglio’s election “the fruit of the spirit”.
“I pray that the newly elected pope will guide the church to fulfil her mission in the world by promoting the universal values of peace, unity, justice, truth, chastity, forgiveness, compassion and love among others,” Layson said.
“Surprised but it gave way to peace and joy. We have a leader who is humble, simple and one with the poor. I pray for wisdom, courage and strength to lead the church,” said Fr. Antonio Moreno, president of Ateneo de Zamboanga University and incoming Philippine provincial superior of the Society of Jesuits.
Redemptorist Bro. Karl Gaspar had this to say: “I thought of all the Jesuits who were our teachers at the Ateneo de Davao University in the 60s, and remembered how they shaped us to be critical thinkers and compassionate to others. If Pope Francis is part of that generation of Jesuits, there is hope of a more compassionate Church at the very center.”
“May he follow the road of a mystic saint and be our example to care for the poor and the whole of creation,” Gaspar added.
“The entire world is blessed because he is pro-poor like St. Francis of Assisi. I’m praying for his health,” said Fr. Edgar Tuling, parish priest of New Bataan, Compostela Valley. (Froilan Gallardo, with reports from Walter I. Balane, Carolyn O. Arguillas and H. Marcos C. Mordeno/MindaNews)