New Pope Francis I Elected: Catholics in Tewksbury React
The white smoke appeared on Wednesday, signalling that the conclave had chosen Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio to be the new head of the Catholic Church. Locals across the community responded.
Local Catholics reacted with relief and excitement on Wednesday to news that a new Pope had been elected by the Conclave of Cardinals in the Vatican.
"We've been praying that the Holy Spirit would move and that they would select (a new Pope)," said Rita LaBella, a congregant at St. William. "This is wonderful. "I'm so glad that someone was chosen before Holy Week."
Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires, Argentina became the first non-European to lead the Catholic Church since the Apostle Peter, himself.
"I'm very excited (by the selection)," said Father Thomas Knopp, pastor of St. William, who said he stopped working for about an hour to watch the announcement of the new Pontiff and to hear the new Pope speak.
"There are very high emotions today but now I have to get back to work," he said with a laugh.
The Papal name chosen by Bergoglio, Pope Francis I, has generated enthusiasm among the local faithful, many who believe the choice was a reference to St. Francis of Assisi, an Italian monk known for his humanitarian outreach and compassion for the poor.
Father Knopp said that would make sense, as Pope Francis gained a reputation for his humility and modest living in his native Argentina. According to an article in the National Catholic Register, he eschewed the mansion that is generally home to the archbishop, in favor of a one-room apartment. His chosen mode of transportation to work has been the commuter bus.
"These are signs of humility. That's very important for the Church," said Father Knopp. "The main purpose of the Church is to bring the Light of Christ into the World."
The average layperson knows little about Pope Francis or his background. Local Catholics said they are anxious to hear him speak and learn more about him.