Local reaction to new pope: hopeful and happy

The excitement about the new pope today is all about the “firsts.”

Reaction locally was hopeful and happy as the news spread of the first pope from Latin America and the first Pope Francis: Argentinian Jorge Mario Bergoglio was chosen among his fellow cardinals to succeed the retired Benedict XVI.

Father Ken Riley, judicial vicar and diocesan priest of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, called it “wonderful” that the new pope hailed from the New World for the first time in church history.

“I think it will be a broadening, a different worldview,” he said.

Riley was moved that one of Pope Francis’ first acts was to pause and ask the people of Rome and the world to pray for him and for his ministry before he gave his blessing.

“I thought that was a great witness of faith, hope and truth,” Riley said.

The firsts, said Biagio Mazza, a local church educator and historian, “really blow your mind.”

Besides the first non-European pope of modern times, he is also the first Jesuit, Mazza said, and the new popes’ choice of “Francis” says very positive things.

“Francis of Assisi’s whole thing was concern for the poor and celebrating all of God’s creation,” Mazza said.

The new pope has a “social justice” outlook and was known for eschewing some of the trappings of life as a cardinal, Mazza said.

Mazza also likes that the new pope isn’t a Vatican insider, having spent his life and ministry in Argentina, yet is known as a good administrator. An outside perspective is needed in Rome, Mazza said.

One concern is that the cardinals did choose someone older than expected, he said.

“A lot of good positive signs so far,” Mazza said. “And it’s a lot of firsts, for sure.”