Pope Francis


OBSERVER Staff Writer

Local Roman Catholics have been following the papal conclave waiting for the traditional white smoke to indicate that Habemus Papam (Latin for “We have a Pope”). Some people have been following the story on EWTN; others heard the news on secular media.

Shortly after the news broke, the website for St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Dunkirk (www.seasdunkirkny.org) posted a message moving across the screen -“Habemus Papam … We have a Pope!!!! …Pope Francis …. We pray for You!”

The Rev. Dennis G. Riter, pastor of the parish, said he had not been following the whole story. He heard a new pope was selected while he was ministering at the County Home. He next went to Brooks Hospital for his pastoral work and was able to watch as Pope Francis gave a blessing.

Rev. Riter said, “It doesn’t surprise me that someone outside of Italy was chosen. … The focus of the church is going to shift.”

He had no particular thought about the fact that Francis is the first Jesuit pope, but said, “The Jesuits are a solid order.” He noted that they are highly trained and a member of the order would have “great potential for leadership.”

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church schedules a Mass in Spanish on Sundays at 2:30 p.m, which Rev. Riter (who speaks Spanish) celebrates. Asked to comment about the impact of a Latin American pope, he said, “It should help somewhat. For years, the church naively thought South America was “ours.” …There have been great strides by other denominations, especially the more fundamental ones. … The pope is someone who understands the reality there.”

The New York Provincial website for the Jesuit order proudly declares “Habemus Papam Jesuitam! Francis I.”

Fr. Patrick Lynch, S.J., Chair and Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Theology from Canisius College, a Jesuit school in Buffalo said, “The Jesuits at Canisius College and High School were pleased and excited that a Jesuit was elected Pope. It was actually something that we did not expect. Jesuits are usually on the fringes and not at the center. We even make a promise not to aspire to ecclesial office. We are very proud, however, that one who follows our way of life and path to God was chosen as the leader of the Catholic Church. We are praying that he will carry out his ministry well and make us even prouder to be Jesuits. We especially look forward to working with our brother Jesuit in service of the Church.”

At St. Bonaventure, Fr. Francis Di Spigno, O.F.M., executive director of University Ministries said, “I think it’s a great selection to have the first non-European pope come from South America, where there is a vibrant Catholic population. He’ll bring a new and fresh world view to the papacy.”

The Rev. Matt Nycz of Blessed Mary Angela Parish in Dunkirk commented about the election of the Pope.

“I’m excited,” he said. “I am happy that the Holy Spirit led the cardinals to elect someone outside of Europe. I didn’t believe that a North American Pope would be elected, but he is from South America.

“Also I think the choice of a name is significant. St. Francis of Assisi had a call to rebuild the church and was also known for interreligious spirit, including visiting Muslim religious leaders in Africa.

“Time will tell (what the new Pope will accomplish).”

There are a number of different saints named Francis. Francis of Assisi is well known, but there is also Francis Xavier (a Jesuit), and Francis De Sales, who was educated by the Jesuits, and several others named Francis.

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