SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

March 14, 2013

Local Catholics hail new pope as 'reason to be hopeful'

North Shore Catholics acknowledged that they don’t know much about the new pope but were nevertheless thrilled with his selection yesterday as the first pontiff from Latin America.

“Argentina, I’m sure, is going out of its mind, and it should,” said the Rev. John Sheridan, pastor of St. James Parish in Salem. “I can’t wait to see and hear what he’s going to do.”

Local Catholics said the naming of Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the 76-year-old archbishop of Buenos Aires, is a sign of the church’s worldwide reach and an acknowledgement of the growth of Catholicism in that part of the world.

Bergoglio, who has spent nearly his entire career in Argentina, has taken the name Pope Francis I.

“He’ll bring a whole new perspective about expanding the Vatican,” said Norman LaPointe, a deacon at St. James in Salem. “It’s going to put a whole new dimension on the church.”

Neil Corcoran, a parishioner at St. Mary Star of the Sea Church in Beverly, said the naming of a new pope is “a time of great excitement and great joy for Catholics, and even folks who aren’t Catholic.

“Knowing that he’s our first pope from a South American nation, that’s reason to be hopeful and joyful,” Corcoran said. “That’s a signal of the church’s reach and the potential of outreach that the church has. It’s terrific news that he’s from a nation that hasn’t been necessarily represented with a pope before.”

Sheridan said the election of a pope from the Western Hemisphere has “enormous significance” for the Catholic Church.

“It reflects the fact that we understand that ‘Catholic’ does not mean ‘Europe,’” he said. “It means the Americas, it means Africa, it means Asia. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular (from a new pope), but having one from Argentina really says to the world, ‘We truly are and always have been a universal people.’”

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