Northwestern religious leaders, scholars: Pope Francis an unsurprising pick

Lauren Caruba, In Focus Editor

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The Northwestern community this afternoon watched a series of historic firsts for the Roman Catholic Church as Argentinian Jorge Mario Bergoglio was named its new pope.

Catholic cardinals elected Bergoglio, 76, as the 266th pontiff of the Catholic Church. Taking the name of Francis, the new pope is the first Jesuit pope, as well as the first to hail from South America.

The first non-European leader of the church for more than 1,000 years, Francis represents the faith’s growing international reach, said John Kartje, chaplain and director of Sheil Catholic Center.

“It’s a good reminder of the fact that the church is a global community,” Kartje said. “This is just one important way of acknowledging that.”

Kartje noted it was only a matter of time before the church departed from a traditionally European pool of religious leaders. He said Francis will bring a new perspective to the pontiff and greater representation to the people of South America, a significant portion of whom are Catholic.

Prof. Alejandra Uslenghi, who teaches in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, agreed Francis’ selection was not surprising.

“He is (the) son of immigrants, from Italians, so he knows very well the culture of the Vatican, the Italian church,” Uslenghi said. “Though it might seem in appearance a very radical decision, it is actually someone very close to the Roman Church and its hierarchy.”

At about 2:30 p.m., about 20 students in Norris University Center gathered around the television adjacent to Starbucks at about to watch the live announcement of the new pope.

Francis’ appointment follows the resignation two weeks ago of Pope Benedict XVI, the first abdication of a pontiff in six centuries. Elected in 2005 after the death of Pope John Paul II, Benedict’s tenure was marked by allegations of child abuse by priests and the leak of papal documents indicating corruption among church officials.

— Lauren Caruba 

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