STEUBENVILLE - Bishop Jeffrey M. Monforton of the Catholic Diocese of Steubenville said Wednesday afternoon he is "delighted and thrilled to have a Holy Father and a pope from the Americas who will bring hope to the world."
Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was elected pope on the fifth round of voting Wednesday evening in Rome by the Conclave charged with selecting the successor to Pope Benedict XVI.
Pope Francis is the first from the Americas and the first from outside Europe in more than a millennium.
"Pope Francis comes to us from Buenos Aires, Argentina, but now is the Vicar of Christ and for whom I am most delighted to serve as one of his bishops. The church in South America has blessed us with one of its sons to bear witness to a world that there is always hope," stated Monforton.
"His papacy will take time to develop. He comes to the Vatican from his own diocese so I think he will bring a fresh look on how to deal with the issues the Catholic Church is now facing. We have prayed incessantly for God's guidance of the cardinal electors for the next successor of St. Peter," said Monforton.
"I am grateful as a bishop and I have a sense of pride that Pope Francis is the first pope from the Americas. He is a very social, outgoing person and will be a good leader for the Catholic church. There are numerous issues he will need to address including the decline of the church in Europe. The new pope will need to embrace new technology as his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI did with Twitter," observed Monforton.
"We now have a pope who is not from a European country. We have someone who is from south of the equator. He can appreciate the sacrifices that have been made in his continent. He also comes from a continent that has a 40 percent Catholic population. He has the experience of seeing the church deal with crises and the challenges of the day," Monforton said.
Monforton also said Pope Francis is coming from a country that has not always been free in its history.
"He will know the challenges that will need to be addressed. He knows what he is doing and I believe he will bring hope to the world. How appropriate the conclave occurred during the Lenten season as we get close to the Easter mountain and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Pope Francis will bring an attitude of hope," continued Monforton.
"Many cardinals were aware of who Pope Francis was and he had their confidence to lead the church," Monforton said.
Officials at Franciscan University of Steubenville said Wednesday afternoon they are pleased the new pontiff chose his name from St. Francis of Assisi.
"The new pope has a special love for the poor. When he became a cardinal in Buenos Aires he gave up his chauffeured limousine and rode a bus to work. Can you imagine a cardinal riding the bus to work? He cooks for himself and lives a simple life," the Rev. Terence Henry, TOR, president of Franciscan University, said.
"Our new Holy Father was apparently the runner-up at the last conclave when Joseph Ratzinger was elected pope. I am excited by his election because he is a strong doctrinal conservative. Pope Francis will uphold church doctrine but have a special place for the poor. This is an exciting time for us as Catholics around the world. And I am very excited for the first pope to be selected outside of Europe," stated Henry.
"St. Francis of Assisi always landed on his feet because his feet were planted in Rome. I believe Pope Francis will be an excellent pope and spiritual leader of the world," added Henry.
Professor Alan Schreck, a veteran theology professor at Franciscan University, said the selection of Francis as his name "is very significant."
"St. Francis of Assisi promoted peace in his lifetime. Assisi, Italy, is a place where people have always thought of peace and unity. Pope John Paul II would invite religious leaders from around the world to gather at Assisi to pray for peace. Different faiths would come to Assisi to pray for peace and unity," explained Schreck.
"The name Francis is also significant because it reflects the basic gospels of Jesus Christ. St. Francis was a peacemaker in his time. And he was a very effective communicator of the Gospel through his words and his life. There is something in a chosen name and I believe this selection will be significant," stated Schreck.
"This is also a very significant time for the Catholic church. I think it is a recognition of the growth of the Catholic church in the southern hemisphere. And the election of Pope Francis shows future popes can come from anywhere in the world," said Schreck, who specializes in Catholic church history, Catholic church doctrine, church renewal and the theology of the church.
"He is the first Jesuit pope. He has served as a cardinal on four different congregations," noted Schreck.
"I was also personally touched and moved by his personal remarks when he appeared as pope for the first time. He asked for a prayer for Pope Benedict XVI and for himself before he blessed the people in the square. He will be a great pope for the people. It is also interesting the new pope is from Argentina and the World Youth Conference this year will be held in Brazil," cited Schreck.
"I believe Pope Francis will embrace the new evangelism. He will also be very clear in continuing the truth of Catholic doctrine. He will be labeled a conservative and he will make it very clear he believes in Catholic doctrine," said Schreck.
(Gossett can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)