Looking back: The election of Pope Francis five years ago

Looking back: The election of Pope Francis five years ago

Pope Francis and Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, Philippines, console the father of Kristel Padasas, 27, Jan. 18, 2015, in Manila. Padasas, a Catholic Relief Services employee, died Jan. 17 after the papal Mass in Tacloban when strong winds caused scaffolding in an area near the altar to fall. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)


Five years ago today, a new Pope was elected.

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires became the first Jesuit ever elected as Supreme Pontiff and the first from the Americas.

In Vancouver, the election was closely followed by the local media.

We contributed our own observations at that time.

We reprint here The Vancouver Sun stories on the election of Pope  Francis.

Will new pope display qualities Canadians seek?

UPDATE: The white smoke is billowing from the Vatican. We will find out in a few minutes who shall become pope and whether he will be the kind of man who will respond to the needs of some of the Canadian Catholics below.

Today’s column:

Prominent Canadians hope the next pope will be a man of energy, courage, openness and real concern for the suffering of the world’s poor.

Four diverse Christians, three of whom are Catholic, yearn for something both old and new in the next pope – someone who respects the gospel tradition while reaching out to Catholics, other religions and the secular culture.

A retired bishop, a religion pollster, a Jesuit and a leading Filipino Catholic journalist said they would like the man elected pope to listen intently to the globe’s struggling Catholics – as well as take a bolder stand on issues of justice and poverty.

While the world awaits the results of the secret conclave votes planned today inside the Vatican, the four Canadians offered suggestions for Catholic leaders who polls suggest are often out of step with much of their membership, especially in the West.

John O’Brien, a Vancouver Jesuit, reflected on the time he’s spent with two of the cardinals considered front-runners to become pope.

The instructor at Vancouver’s Corpus Christi College has had numerous conversations in Rome with Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet and Italian Cardinal Angela Scola. He thinks they could both make good popes, for different reasons.

O’Brien believes the 115 cardinals in the conclave need to choose a pope who will bring “energy” to the position. The 1.2-billion-member church requires a leader who will “continue to dialogue with the modern world.”

Pope Benedict launched strong attacks on secularism, but critics say he often alienated all but his most conservative followers.

In addition, O’Brien believes the next pope “must be a global pope who can travel extensively” and relate to the Catholic Church in developing parts of the world.

O’Brien would celebrate the election of a pope from Latin America, where more than 40 per cent of the world’s Catholics reside. Among other things, O’Brien said a Latin American pope would “have particular insight into issues surrounding poverty and justice.”

O’Brien remembers rich dinner conversations with Ouellet. They occurred when O’Brien was studying in the mid-2000s in Rome while living at Casa Balthazar, a residence Ouellet helped establish. Scola, the cardinal for Milan who has a gift for creative interaction with Western secularists, would also frequently come by for discussions.

Ouellet would be a useful “bridge” candidate for the church, said O’Brien, 36.

“He’s non-European, but he speaks perfect Italian and he’s spent a lot of time in Rome. He also has the experience of being in Colombia.”

The Vancouver-based Jesuit added: “The question for Ouel-let and any pope is: ‘Can he handle the crosses that will be thrown at him?’ The pope must be a witness to the truth of the gospel to the bitter end.”

Retired Victoria bishop Remi de Roo also hopes the new pontiff will place renewed emphasis on the plight of the world’s poor.

De Roo, considered one of the more progressive bishops in the Catholic Church, thinks the next pope should be intimate with the realities of poverty, including among Catholics in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

“I do hope and pray that whoever succeeds Benedict XVI will set aside the pomp and display surrounding the cardinals. It is my fond hope that he will set an example of a simple living style, and that he will embrace by both word and example the cause of the poor.”

The 88-year-old continues to travel to advance reform within the church. While in office, however, De Roo was quietly chastised by both Pope Benedict and Pope John Paul for publicly showing openness to the concepts of married Catholic priests and female priests.

De Roo yearns for a compassionate new pope. “Ideally the candidate would have himself experienced poverty. So he can understand what the historic cause of the poor really means for followers of Christ.”

Veteran Canadian religion pollster Reg Bibby, who consults to the Canadian Catholic Church, emphasized the new pope will need to “bridge the chasm” that separates millions of baptized Catholics from the Vatican hierarchy.

It’s been “good news” that relatively few Catholics have permanently left the church in which they were raised, Bibby said. “But, that said, the standoff on social and moral views needs to be addressed. Catholics and the church need to speak more with each other.”

Bibby’s own polling shows the strong majority of Canadian Catholics are far more liberal than the Vatican on issues such as contraception, homosexuality, female priests and married priests.

The University of Lethbridge sociologist, whose wife is Catholic, said it’s good to see the Vatican placing fresh priority on what’s being called “The New Evangelization.”

“It is ready-made for countries like Canada because its primary focus is on reaching out to dormant Catholics for whom faith has lost significance. In Canada this sector is extremely large.”

Like De Roo, Bibby stressed the new pope needs to play down Vatican authority.

Ted Alcuitas, an active Catholic who is senior editor of the Philippine Asian News Today, prays the new pope will have the visionary qualities of Pope John XXIII, who 50 years ago introduced Vatican II.

“The last thing inactive Catholics need to hear is that they need to become more involved out of a sense of obedience. What will lead them to greater involvement is the belief that the church is working hard to elevate their lives and the lives of others.”

The ecumenical reforms of Vatican II have been too often ignored, Alcuitas said. “I would like to see a pope who will lead in the transformation of the church to be a progressive messenger of the gospel, instead of regressing and failing to listen and dialogue with its faithful.”

An advocate for the world’s poor, Alcuitas concluded: “Perhaps this conclave will surprise us with a new pope … who will guide the church in its present crises to be a new beacon of hope for the world.”


Douglas Todd: Canadian immigrants should be pleased with new pope (with video)


Although some Canadians are disappointed Quebec Cardinal Marc Ouellet was not elected pope, those who yearn for a fresh breeze from the Vatican are pleased with the new Latin American pontiff.

A new Catholic focus on the developing world began Wednesday with the historic elevation of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, the first Jesuit ever elected as Supreme Pontiff and the first from the Americas.

Canadian immigrants, as well as Catholics who care about the plight of the disenfranchised, are feeling hopeful about Bergoglio, 76, who has adopted the name, Pope Francis, out of respect to the famous Italian saint who turned his back on luxury to follow a simple life.

The Argentine cardinal, who gave a warm greeting to the crowd huddled in St. Peter’s Square in Rome, is known for his lack of pretension.

He has never lived in a mansion, prefers the bus to a chauffeur and has spoken out in frustration about the many people who have been hurt in Latin America by economic globalization.

 The ascendancy of Bergoglio — who came in second in the 2005 conclave that elected Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as pope – is sure to instantly raise the profile of both Latin America and the entire developing world, which is the source of most of Canada’s seven million immigrants, many of whom are Catholic.

“We’re all very proud he was chosen. All Argentinians are rooting for him. We hope he brings improvements to the church,” said New Westminster Catholic Estefania Wujkiw, 21, who moved to Canada from Argentina when she was 10.

“(Bergoglio) is known in South America for being a humble man who always deals with the poor, the sick, the prisoners. He speaks up about social issues. With him being elected pope, Canadians will see how ethnically diverse the Catholic Church is.”

The more than two-thirds of the 115 cardinals who voted for the Latin American leader have responded to a worldwide groundswell, which saw many pray for a pope who would finally come from outside Europe.

The son of an Italian immigrant/railway worker, Bergoglio has never been considered an insider at the Vatican.

Quebec Cardinal Marc Ouellet was frequently highlighted in the media as a potential “compromise” candidate for pope because he was born beyond Europe, has held influential positions inside the Vatican and has led a seminary in South America.

Yet, despite Vatican watchers frequently placing Ouellet among the top three papal contenders, some of the 12 million Catholics who live in Canada have only expressed mild disappointment their homegrown 68-year-old favourite did not become pontiff.

Ouellet’s mother and siblings in La Motte say they are “proud” of their high-level family member, but “relieved” he has not become pope and look forward to private gatherings with him in the summer.

As well, there is always the possibility Ouellet could be chosen to lead the 1.2- billion member church when Pope Francis — who is among the oldest pontiffs ever elected — either dies or retires.

A cardinal from Latin American was the clear choice for the first non-European pontiff in 1,000 years. The region is home to 40 per cent of the world’s Catholics.

However, the Catholic Church is struggling in many parts of Latin America, including Brazil and Argentina, as it is loses adherents to Protestantism and liberal secularism.

Bergoglio’s sudden fame, nevertheless, can’t help but put renewed emphasis on Catholics throughout the developing world, after centuries of Europeans dominating the Vatican hierarchy.

Even though Latin America has far more Catholics than any other region, it has only been granted 17 of the Catholic Church’s 115 cardinal positions.

In Canada, Latin Americans make up only five per cent of all immigrants, but the vast majority are Catholic. In total, Statistics Canada reports 30 per cent of the roughly 260,000 immigrants who have arrived in Canada each year since 2005 have been Catholic. The Latin American community of roughly 30,000 in Metro Vancouver is growing rapidly, with the highest concentration in southern Burnaby.

Vancouver Archbishop Michael Miller welcomed the election of a pope from Argentina.

“I think it’s a marvellous step. It reminds the world that the church is universal. The church is not European,” said Miller, whose parishes are dominated by immigrants from Latin America and East Asia.

In the past few days several prominent Canadian Catholics — former Victoria bishop Remi de Roo, Vancouver Filipino community leader Ted Alcuitas and Christi College Jesuit instructor John O’Brien — have said they wish for the next pope to come from the developing world, since it will highlight economic and justice issues.

“I believe Filipinos throughout Canada, since they are largely a Catholic population, will be excited about the new pope being the first from outside Europe,” Alcuitas, editor of Philippine Asian News Today, said Wednesday.

Mario Canseco, a Mexican-raised pollster for Angus Reid Public Opinion, said Wednesday he is pleased because with the election because it will raise the profile of Latin America, provoke questions about excessive wealth and shine the spotlight on the world’s many suffering people.

“One thing I would hope to see is more action on helping the poor, especially since one of the more recent criticisms of the Catholic Church has been its bloated expenses,” said Canseco, a practising Vancouver Catholic.

“This is a person who rides the bus and chose Francis as his name — this shows how deeply he cares about this issue.”

An international poll released this week by Angus Reid Public Opinion suggested most of the almost 100 million Catholics who live in Canada and the United States are more liberal than the Vatican on a range of sex-related issues, including contraception, married priests and female priests.

Although Bergoglio has never openly defied Vatican teachings regarding these personal moral issues, it did not stop Canseco from expressing he was “very happy” that Bergoglio is a Jesuit. The Jesuits have, over the centuries, developed a reputation for being relatively free thinkers within the Catholic fold.

Pope Francis comes with the reputation of a man who bridges the divide between conservative and liberal Catholics. Whether he will actually usher in many of the changes that will be celebrated by a majority of Canadian Catholics will be discovered only in the years to come.


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