GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

March 15, 2013

Local Catholics 'invigorated' by Pope Francis

By James Niedzinski
Staff Writer

---- — While Catholics from all corners of the world were celebrating after they first heard news of Pope Francis as the white smoke poured from the Sistine Chapel, Catholics in Gloucester and across Cape Ann said Thursday they, too, feel invigorated with faith after the announcement.

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the Argentinian archbishop of Buenos Aries, asked Catholics around the globe to pray for him after he was introduced Wednesday as the first Pope Francis.

Christine Moore, a pastoral associate with Manchester’s Sacred Heart Catholic Church and St. John’s church in Essex, said she believes that moment was a clear sign Francis was the right choice.

“His first action was to ask us to pray for him, I thought that was so amazing,” she said.

Moore, who also leads the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program for the churches, said Bergoglio’s decision to take the name Francis — after St. Francis of Assisi — was a promising sign. The name symbolizes poverty and humility, discouraging a life of wealth, and the new pontiff was known to take public transportation, lived in a modest apartment and cooked his own meals during his time as Cardinal in Argentina.

Moore, as other Catholics have said, did not know a great deal about Francis before the announcement, but none-the-less was thrilled with the choice.

Francis has faced criticisms in the past during his time as Cardinal in Buenos Aries. During the mid 1970s and early 1980s, the country was involved in a murderous war, where as many as 30,000 leftist opponents of the military ruled country were either killed, tortured, or kidnapped. Francis , like other Argentines, failed to speak out against military leaders.

However, some human rights activists agree it is unfair to lump Francis in with other church leaders, who had worked with the Argentine military.

The Rev. Matthew Green of Gloucester’s Holy Family Parish and St. Ann Church said he became aware of the controversial history, but it did not concern him much, especially with mixed accounts about Francis’s activities during military rule in the country.

Green himself has close ties to Latin America, including friends from Chile and work experience in Guatemala, where he pointed out many other countries had similar military dictatorships in the past.

“Sometimes it is difficult to make the right choice,” he said.

Green was a bit surprised with the papal conclave’s decision, considering he is a Jesuit, but was pleased at the same time.

Green hopes Francis will keep an open mind to some circumstances in the Catholic Church, such as allowing priests to marry. He added there are just some things a pope cannot change within the church.

Green said views on abortion and allowing homosexuals to marry are matters out of the pope’s hands, as they are staples of the doctrine.

“I had hoped for a pope from outside Europe, to bring a fresh perspective,” he said.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000, x 3455 or at jniedzinski@gloucestertimes.com.