For the first time in human history, the Catholic Church has a non-European pope.
Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, 76, from Argentina was elected the new pope of the Catholic church at about 2 p.m. Wednesday. He is the first Latin American pope to be elected.
The McPherson Sentinel contacted local members of the St. Joseph’s Catholic Parish for their responses shortly after the announcement.
Father Hien Nguyen, pastor of the McPherson St. Joseph Catholic Church, said it was a wonderful feeling knowing that the church now had a new pope.
“It’s good to have someone who has been in the faith for a long time,” father Nguyen said, referencing the new pope’s age.
Father Nguyen said he hoped Bergoglio would be willing to travel and meet with more people of the Catholic faith, much like former Pope John Paul II. Nguyen referenced a visit by John Paul to Colorado in 1993, where Nguyen was present.
“It was the first time I felt like I was not the only Catholic my age,” Nguyen said.
Father Nguyen said he also hopes the new pope will bring life and healing to people around the world.
Chris Kauffman, a member of St. Joseph’s and teacher of the adult religious education program, said the news came as a surprise.
She said she didn’t expect the election of a Latin American to the papal position, but considering almost 50 percent of Catholics are residing in Latin America, including Mexico, the election, she said, made sense.
Kauffman said she hopes Bergoglio will encourage more evangelism within the church.
“I hope he will be someone who will challenge people to bring people together in the faith,” she said.
Kauffman also said she hopes the new pope will encourage those who have left the Catholic church to return.
“I hope he speaks to the heart of each person, and sees (the church as) a great home to be in,” she said.
John Holecek, a devoted member of St. Joseph’s, said he watch the televised announcement and commencement on a live stream.
“I was down on my knees, with tears in my eyes,” Holecek said.
Holecek said he was hoping for someone from Latin America, again referencing the large Catholic population in the Latin American world.
“My heart is singing,” he said.
Holecek said he thinks the new pope will emphasize new evangelization, saying the focus needs to be less on the philosophical nature provided by the last few popes and more on an authentic faith based on Jesus Christ.
Page 2 of 2 - Holecek said he feels the hand of God was in the election and expressed joy in the decision.