Local church officials react to new pope

PARKERSBURG – The Rev. Monsignor Joseph L. Peterson of St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church in Parkersburg said the new pope is the first pope to be a member of the Society of Jesus, or Jesuits.

After two days of deliberations, the conclave to pick a new pope to lead the Catholic Church elected Jorge Mario Bergoglio. From 1998 until his election as pope, Bergoglio served as the archbishop of Buenos Aires, and was named a cardinal in 2001 by Pope John Paul II.

Peterson said the Society of Jesus has two main areas of ministry: education and missionary.

“I know one of the thrusts has been the new evangelization; the old proclamation of the gospel,” he said. “It appears it is an area Pope Francis is very concerned about and very enthused about.”

Peterson said no statement has been made as to the significance to the choice of Francis for the new pope’s name.

“He is the first Francis and it would be interesting to find out what prompted him to choose that name,” Peterson said.

The Most Rev. Michael J. Bransfield of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston issued a statement in regard to the election of Pope Francis.

“This is one of the best surprises we could expect. Catholics should be very grateful to the Holy Spirit for this choice,” he said. “Pope Francis represents a selection that has the universal church in mind, not just regional preferences. He is the first Pope from either of the Americas.

“This couldn’t have happened in the 20th century but it has in the 21st century. This historic choice shows that the cardinals were as concerned about the world as they are the Vatican,” Bransfield said.

Pope Francis, 76, is the first non-European pope since the election of Gregory III, who was born in Syria. He was pope from Feb. 11, 731 to Nov. 28, 741.