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Locals pleased with papal choice

By Kay S. Pedrotti Newly elected Pope Francis I is first in more than his chosen name. He is the first pope to be elected from outside Europe, the first Jesuit and the first to be known especially for his work among the poor in his native Argentina, says Father Neil Herlihy of St. Peter the Rock Catholic Church between Barnesville and Thomaston. ’It is of course a great honor to be named the spiritual shepherd of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, but it’s also a huge responsibility,’ says Herlihy. ‘He has chosen his name from St. Francis, who was known for living his life for the poor. He is a man of great humility and simplicity and of great holiness.’ Herlihy continues, ‘I believe Francis I will address many of the problems that show the human side of the church ‘“ administrative, financial and sex abuse scandals ‘“ but won’t let the complexity of the world interfere with the church’s scriptural integrity. This pope also is known for his pastoral and administrative skills. I think he’s the one to guide and lead the church at this time in the world.’ A sampling of local Catholic church members, asked for their reaction to the new pope, used such terms as ‘refreshing,’ ‘a man of the poor’ and ‘human enough to need and ask for our prayers.’ Gordon State College professor Dr. Richard Schmude says he is optimistic about the choice of ‘a man who has walked among the poor and seems to be focused on their needs.’ ‘Pope Francis I didn’t become ordained until age 32,’ Schmude said. ‘That was at a time when the median age of men entering the priesthood was about 27. His experience is a good lesson for young people who may feel discouraged if they don’t graduate high school or finish college on time. The pope is proof they can get there anyhow.’ Schmude also noted Latin America is home to about 40% of the world’s Roman Catholics and it is appropriate to choose a pope from outside Europe. Others including Mary Maskell and Jean Dukes were pleased with the choice of someone from this hemisphere. ’I think he’ll do a very good job,’ Jean Dukes said. ‘I’m disappointed that at 76, he isn’t a little younger. I also feel it’s exciting that they (the College of Cardinals) elected a Jesuit and someone from outside Europe. I could wish that some other faiths understood us, that we don’t worship Mary or the pope but God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit.’ Charles Dukes noted, ‘The Jesuits, priests of the Society of Jesus, are members of a very old order which has been known for defense of the pope, scholarship and willingness to fight for social justice. People can take a political view or just accept that Francis I is a very humble, very human priest who just happens to be from Buenos Aires.’ ’I don’t think the basic precepts of the church, like celibacy for priests and opposing abortion, will change under this pope,’ said Maskell. ‘I think he’ll bring a new look to everything without altering the traditions we’ve built our faith on. It also amazes me how much attention the world is paying to Pope Francis’ election. I’ve had dozens of calls, mostly from friends of other faiths, and I noticed he’s getting a lot of television time. I think maybe he’s the one who can clean up some of the problems in the church and be transparent and open about the things that need some correction.’ Schmude concluded, ‘This man, like other popes, is only human. We need to pray for him.’

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