Naperville Reacts to Pope Francis

After five rounds of votes and two days of the Conclave of Cardinals, Vatican City saw white smoke rise proclaiming the election of a new pope.

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina was elected as the 266th pope of the 2000-year history of the Roman Catholic Church.

At 76, he chose the name of Francis I after Saint Francis of Assisi who was known for his compassion to all and is the first non-European pope in 1,200 years.

Pope Francis is the first Jesuit leader of the faith. Jesuits, or the Society of Jesus, take a vow of poverty and have an academic focus.

The new papacy follows the unprecedented retirement of Pope Benedict the XVI at the end of February, during a difficult time for the church.

As the head of a Catholic college, Benedictine University’s President Dr. William Caroll, hopes Pope Francis can get to work quickly reforming and fixing major issues facing the church.

“The church in the 21st century has lost its moral credibility,” said Dr. Carroll. “It’s lost its moral leadership; I think the job of Francis I is to reestablish that, to become the moral leader in today’s world. That means he has to deal with a lot of issues, sexual scandals all over the world. The issue of gay people in the church. The issue of women in the church. The issue of poor people in the church [and] the issue of mismanagement in the church.”
All problems fresh in the minds of many in the faith.

“I hope he is able to bring us more into the future and start to heal some of the wounds that we have suffered over the past couple of years with the sexual abuse,” said Lemont resident, Kathy Seiler. “I hope he finds a place for women in the church; a place of importance.”

Many Cardinals and churches including Saints Peter and Paul here in Naperville have created social media accounts. Carroll is hoping to see Francis I carry on and improve the tradition set by Pope Benedict’s Twitter account.

“One of the fascinating things we heard in all the coverage was that a lot of the Cardinals were on Twitter and Facebook. By the way, they took away their smart phones and that’s a good sign, because that’s the world the young people live in,” said Carroll. “The church has to get in that world, to show them the church is not only of the other world but the church is very much of this world and it’s part of them.”

Social media also helped quickly spread news of the selection all over the world, even to non-Catholics.

“I didn’t really keep up with the Pope business, but I saw it all on Twitter,” said Stacy Panagakis, a Naperville resident. “Everyone was talking about it and everyone was retweeting saying it was pretty cool.”

Despite the many challenges facing Francis I, Dr. Carroll and fellow Catholics have great expectations for the church’s new chapter.

“After going through all this as a Catholic, my hope is huge that Francis I will have a unique papacy to lead the church into the 21st century,” Carroll said.

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