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Catholics throughout the world heard with joy of the election of a new Pope. The Cardinal-electors have already expressed their obedience to him, as has Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI. It is now for each and every Catholic in the world to acknowledge and gratefully accept Pope Francis I as our new Pope, our Shepherd on earth, our leader and our symbol of unity.
The symbolism of choosing a Pope from Latin America has delights and touches us, most particularly in developing countries. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, Pope Francis I, is a person from humble beginnings. He is the son a railway worker who entered the Jesuit Order (Society of Jesus) and is known as a humble and simple person. Reputedly he abandoned his car and opted to use public transport – a person of the people. He is well aware of the problems and challenges facing the developing world. He has frequently and courageously spoken of the grave inequalities afflicting the world and his thirst for justice for all people will be a strong characteristic of his papacy.
His first appearance to greet the crowds in Vatican square demonstrated his humanity and humility as he gently spoke to people and not only asked for their prayers but asked all to pray for a blessing upon himself as he bowed before them.
He has much pastoral experience but also experience of the Vatican itself through a number of administrative appointments in the Curia. This is of great significance as he has a pastoral heart through running his diocese in Buenos Aires, but he will also be able to deal with issues of governance in the global Church. Many people expected a younger person to be elected but we do not doubt the action and guidance of the Holy Spirit and we anticipate great things from the leadership of Francis I. Catholics throughout the world tonight will sleep with the prayer “Thanks be to God” on their lips.
Archbishop Stephen Brislin
President Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference