In a new editorial in The Staten island Advance, the newspaper calls Pope Francis a surprising choice for a church in flux.
"For the second time in slightly less than eight years, 1.2 billion Catholics have a new leader of their global church. Pope Francis was elected on Wednesday to succeed Pope Benedict XVI, who was the first pope in almost six centuries to resign," added the editorial. "All people of good will around the world, regardless of religion, wish Pope Francis well as he guides an ancient and staunchly traditional church in a changing world."
The editorial adds: "Other precedents fell with his elevation. He is the first Jesuit to become pope, which is surprising given that the Jesuits have always been highly regarded as kind of the special forces of the Catholic Church."
The man who was Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina until Wednesday is also the first person from the Western Hemisphere to attain the papacy, added the newspaper editoriall.
"Many commentators noted that this week, calling the Americas "The New World," in stark contrast to the "Old World" of Europe, from which the vast majority of previous popes have emerged," according to The Advance editorial.
A new pope from the new world
"It is oddly telling that South America would still be referred to as the "New World" in these discussions about the papacy, even though it has been five centuries since the New World was discovered and settled," adds The Advance editorial. "That hints at the conception of time in Catholic Church terms."
"It also suggests that a lot of the abundant speculation before the papal conclave about the direction in which the new pope would take the Church was so much fatuous nonsense," added The Advance editorial.
"No, there will be no upheavals in Church doctrine regarding abortion, same-sex marriage and adoptions by gays and euthanasia," adds The Advance. "The "change of course" some seem to expect won't happen. Pope Francis is fully as much of a conservative as his predecessor on matters of doctrine. If anything, he may be more traditional in his deeply held values. He was elected by the College of Cardinals for that very reason."
"But while forcefully opposing the changes that the modernists want and claim are inevitable, he has also insisted upon respect for gays and lesbians and other "sinners" in the eyes of the Church," added the editorial. "He even berated fellow church officials for hypocrisy on that score and reminded them that Jesus ministered to lepers, prostitutes and the like; in 2001, on a visit to a hospice, he spontaneously washed and kissed the feet of dying AIDS patients."
Pope Francis offers a quiet humanity
"If anything, unlike the scholarly Benedict, his focus will be more on people than on policy. His choice to be the first pope named after Francis of Assisi, one of the humblest and most beloved saints, rather than other Catholic luminaries of the past, is also significant," added the editorial. "So, too, does his life during his reign as cardinal in Buenos Aires show he cares more about the poor and the downtrodden than about enforcing dogma. He even lived in a small apartment in the city, rather than the cardinal's official mansion, and got around by subway, freely mixing with ordinary people en route."
"The cardinals' collective decision to install an Argentine may be inspired on another level. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio worked and lived half a world away from the intrigues of Rome; thus he has been far removed from the financial scandal that rocked the Church last year and continues to worry world leaders," added the editorial. "Insiders in the Vatican have been blamed for the mess."
"Now, as William Donohue of the Catholic League suggests, Pope Francis would do well to bring in others from the "New World" to be his team in Rome and maintain his distance from the power struggles of "Old World" Vatican players," stressed The Advance.
"The pundits observe the new pope will lead a Church that confronts a number of difficult issues, including the fall-off in Church participation in Europe and the United States, the lingering stain of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and the crushing poverty in parts of the world where a fast-growing majority of Catholics live," added the editorial.
"But then, the Catholic Church has faced difficult issues before and it has always endured. We have every faith that Pope Francis will guide it well," added The Advance editorial. It is the hope of all Roman Catholics and of humanity that Pope Francis will offer a positive new direction during this period of conflict within the church. Religious educators and parents need te teach their children about the positive aspects of electing Pope Francis to the Roman Catholic church's highest office. Let us hope that Pope Francis will give a much-needed breath of fresh air to this holy office in The Vatican.