Minutes after Pope Francis addressed the throngs of well-wishers in Vatican City, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput said the new pontiff is ”a man from the new heartland of the global Church.”
Chaput also said he has a special gift on his desk from the first time he met the pope formerly known as Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina.
“I first met our new Holy Father at Rome's 1997 Synod for America, and still have a gift from him, a portrait of Mary, the mother of Jesus, on my desk,” Chaput said.
Chaput reaction is in line with what many observers believed could happen: election of a pope from outside Europe for the first time in several hundred years and the first in Latin America in the church's 2,000-year history.
“Pope Francis, the former Cardinal Bergoglio, is a man from the new heartland of the global Church; a priest of extraordinary intellectual and cultural strengths; a man deeply engaged in the issues of contemporary life and able to speak to the modern heart; open to the new realities the Church faces; and rooted in a deep love of Jesus Christ,” Chaput said. “He is a wonderful choice; a pastor God sends not just to the Church but to every person of good will who honestly yearns for justice, peace and human dignity in our time. May God grant him courage and joy, and sustain him with his divine presence.”
Transcript of Chaput's opening comments at a press conference Wednesday afternoon, verbatim:
"The Catholic Church is rejoicing this afternoon on the election of our new pope, Pope Francis. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aries, Argentina was elected by the cardinals today.
For me, it's a great joy because we have a pope but also because I had the privilege of attending the synod of the Americas with him, I think it's 16 years ago in Rome, and we were sitting pretty close to each other and became friendly during that situation, the gathering. And he gave me a picture of a blessed mother, Mary the mother of Jesus. There's a devotion in Argentina of Mary untying knots, and you know that our lives as bishops have a lot of knotty questions and so I put this picture on my desk in Denver when I was the archbishop there, and it's on my desk here in Philadelphia, because eveyday there are many knots that I have to untie in terms of my work in the church.
So my impression of this man is firsthand and very, very positive. He's a gentle soul, very simple, committed to the poor and to a simple lifestyle himself as a cardinal in Buenos Aires. He's a holy man and I think he's going to be a source of great joy and enthusiasm and surprise for the world as he serves our church as the successor of St. Peter.
So I'm personally happy and the church is happy, and I invite everybody to rejoice with us so that we can get busy about being faithful Catholics and living our life according to the gospel of Jesus Christ."
Carolyn Davis contributed to this story.
Contact Brian X. McCrone at 215-854-2267 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @brianxmccrone on Twitter.