White smoke rose from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel, a signal at once silent and loud as our own “shot heard ‘round the world.”
Cheers rang out from the crowd gathered at Vatican City and the buzz spread quickly as the by-the-second news cycle could carry it. Here in Concord, Holy Family Parish learned of the selection from a newsfeed and tuned in with excitement to see who the conclave elected.
It was Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who has taken the name Francis. He is reportedly the Jesuit pope, the first South American pope and also the first pope to (possibly) take his name after St. Francis of Assisi.
“I think we’re pleased,” said Ken Meltz, the director of Faith Formation at Holy Family Parish in Concord. “The presence of a South American will send a real message that the church is not just a European church anymore. It’s very much a worldwide church, and I think that will be a message well received.”
Francis I is the elected successor of Benedict XVI, who made the unprecedented decision to resign the papacy. Benedict officially stepped down Feb. 28, becoming the first pontiff to resign in nearly 598 years.
Many area Catholics saw Benedict’s resignation announcement as opening up an exciting opportunity for modernization within the Church at a time when the pope is viewed as a global leader and values around sex and marriage are hot-button issues.
Though at 76-year-old Francis is not necessarily the “younger” pope some had hoped for, the many “firsts” associated with his election are cause for excitement.
“I think the fact that it’s someone from South America is wonderful,” said Meltz, adding the perception was that if the new pope was from Europe, then he was likely to be a part of the existing bureaucracy. “It does show I think in a very real way that the Catholic Church is becoming much more universal than how we once considered it.”