Vatican: Catholics ‘absolutely thrilled’ after Pope Francis becomes new head of church

Pope Francis waves to the crowd from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wed

Pope Francis waves to the crowd from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio who chose the name of Francis, is the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia) - Credit: AP

PRIESTS across the region have welcomed Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina after he was named as the new head of the Catholic Church last night.

The 76-year-old from Buenos Aires is the first Latin American and the first Jesuit to be pontiff.

Pope Francis replaces Benedict XVI, who resigned last month at the age of 85, saying he was not strong enough to lead the Church.

Father Leader, of St Pancras Church in Ipswich, said: “It is a very good choice and I think it represents very exciting times for the future of the church.

“He seems like a full orthodox member of the church and a very holy man. He will bring a fresh light to the church from the third world which is perhaps what we have been lacking.

“I hope he will be able to sort out the various related problems at the Vatican.”

The election of a new Pope last night was signalled by white smoke from the Sistine Chapel chimney on Wednesday evening.

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Appearing on a balcony over St Peter’s Square in Rome, he asked the faithful to pray for him, with cheers erupting as he gave a blessing.

Father David Finegan, of Our Lady’s Catholic Church in Stowmarket, said: “I am absolutely thrilled. I think it is great and exciting news.

“He is our first Latin pope at the Vatican and I think he will show a commitment to helping the poor and help bring justice to the world.”

Meanwhile, Father David Bagstaff, of the diocese of East Anglia, he was “delighted to welcome Pope Francis on his election.”

He added: “We now have a new Pope, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, who has taken the name of Francis, a saint noted for his simplicity of life and love of the poor and of the world in which we live.

“That simplicity of life and solidarity with the poor has already been reflected in the Pope’s life. It reflects the Church’s commitment to social justice as a central part of her proclamation of the Gospel of Christ.”

The election was met with thunderous applause at the cathedral in Buenos Aires, Pope Francis’ home city.

Throughout Latin America – home to 40% of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics – people reacted with delight and surprise.

Father Bagstaff said: “As the first pope from South America his election is a powerful witness to the universality of the Catholic Church and above all the universality of God’s love and gift of salvation.

“As successor of St. Peter, the Pope has a particular role: to be a focus of unity for the Catholic Church throughout the world.

“The silence in St. Peter’s Square as Pope Francis asked us to pray for him was deeply moving.

“As we prayed for him then, we will continue to do so as we journey together in the service of God’s love.”

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