North Coast Catholics welcome choice of pope
Published: Thursday, March 14, 2013 at 9:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 14, 2013 at 9:01 a.m.
Like Catholics all over the North Coast, students at Cardinal Newman High School near Santa Rosa eagerly awaited the announcement Wednesday of a new pope, which Principal Graham Rutherford made over the loudspeakers just before classes broke for lunch.
"I'm really excited, we'd been waiting all day," said Nate Bentham, a senior at Newman, after hearing of the selection of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina.
"I'm excited that he's from a different part of the world, and I think his Jesuit background will bring a different perspective."
Bentham, 17, is a part of the school's senior campus ministry class. Prior to the Vatican's announcement, the class had been examining the backgrounds of some of the original front-runners. Bergoglio's name was not among them.
"I think we're all shocked, but the general feeling is really positive," said Newman senior Sinead Lafferty, an Irish-born Catholic.
The pope's choice of the name Francis, based on St. Francis of Assisi, was met with approval.
"It was the first thing that struck me," said Bishop Robert F. Vasa of the Santa Rosa Diocese. "It's a small thing, but it's symbolic of the reflection of his heart."
Rutherford said he hopes when people hear the name they won't think just of garden statues. "Francis was eloquent and his quote, 'preach the gospel to all the world and if necessary use words,' (demonstrates) this," Rutherford said. "He's one of the finest saints you could role model after."
Pope Francis' status as a Jesuit priest resonated with a large number of Catholics.
"The Jesuits have a history of speaking honestly about what needs to be done," said Rutherford, who attended the Jesuit-led Santa Clara University. "They're deeply involved in education and missions."
Newman senior Matt Phelps agreed. "I'm a big fan of the Jesuits," said Phelps, 17. "The Jesuits have a lot of new ideas and I think (they) can really involve younger generations."
The pope's background as the archbishop of Buenos Aires could bring a sense of unity to the church, Rutherford said.
"It feels more inclusive to the whole world," he said.
Vasa said the pope's South American background is part of a recent trend of breaking from the mold of an "Italian paradigm," noting Pope John Paul II's Polish heritage and Pope Benedict XVI's German heritage.
Pope Francis is more of a moderate, someone who will be good for the current and future state of the church, said Lafferty, 18.
The pope's humble approach during Wednesday's ceremonies, particularly his request for the crowd to pray for him, struck a chord.
"I think it shows a balance of insight and humility," Rutherford said. "Everything isn't top down and I'm glad he could express that."
Impacts for the local church likely will be minimal, Vasa said. New papal portraits will be ordered and prayers will begin for Pope Francis.
"It's an exciting time for the church, but there's continuity in the midst of change," Vasa said.
Francis already has inspired young Catholics at Newman. "I think it's a good step in the right direction," said Newman senior Katie Walsh, 17. "It's the beginning of a new kind of era."
You can reach Staff Writer Melody Karpinski at 521-5205 or email@example.com.
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