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Editorial: Humble, traditional pope brings hope

8:43 PM, Mar. 14, 2013  |  Comments
Pope Francis holds first mass in Sistine Chapel
Pope Francis holds first mass in Sistine Chapel: Pope Francis held his first mass at the Sistine Chapel just one day after the Cardinals elected him in conclave.
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History was made Wednesday in Vatican City when Argentina's Jorge Bergoglio was elected to be the new leader of the Catholic Church. Bergoglio will forever be known as Pope Francis. For Catholics and people of faith all around the world, the pomp and circumstance and the white smoke vigil were enthralling.

When Pope Francis stepped forward from a sea of cardinals, the first Latin American pope and the first non-European pope in more than 1,000 years, it is fair to say the papacy, and some might say the church, was forever changed. But less than an hour after Francis addressed the tens of thousands of onlookers gathered in St. Peter's Square, the media scrambled to find out what the 76-year-old is all about. The early reports described him as an extremely "conservative" Catholic, one who has no time for talk of same-sex marriage, contraception or many other liberal movements that exist in today's world and within the Catholic Church itself.

Francis was a surprise selection in many ways, as the names of several other high-profile cardinals were tossed around for days leading up to the final vote in the Sistine Chapel. Few will remember who was the favorite to be named pope, but many will recall how humbly the new pope accepted what is arguably one of the most important, high-profile leadership positions in the world.

With all of that attention comes pressure. Not only have the media started to dig to find out more about the man from Argentina, but Catholics from Green Bay to Ghana are saying prayers that Francis will be able to move the church forward. The Catholic Church has been rocked by priest sex abuse scandals for the better part of a decade, and there was speculation in the Italian media in the last month that Pope Benedict XVI's surprise resignation may have been prompted by ongoing turmoil within the Vatican related to rumors of sexually active priests and related abuse. In addition, Benedict's sudden retirement was marred by the abrupt resignation of the archbishop of Scotland, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, who apologized for his personal failings tied to a decades-old sex scandal involving young priests.

In spite of some of the baggage that exists within the church itself, Francis immediately became a figure for hope and healing to Catholics around the world. St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and the environment, is remembered through statuary throughout the world. We hope that Francis is one day remembered for his ability to heal the wounds that exist within the church.

The Catholic Church is such a powerful, positive force in this city, and in the world, and we hope that Francis can make his mark and lead the flock out of what has been a difficult, challenging start to the 21st century.

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