With the entire world watching, Jorge Mario Bergoglio was chosen as the new leader of the Roman Catholic Church on March 13.
The first Jesuit pope in history took the name Francis after white smoke signaled the end of the papal conclave on its second day.
Pope Francis has replaced Pope Benedict XVI, who in February became the first man to resign the papacy in six centuries. He cited poor health as the reason for his resignation.
Rev. Richard Thompson, pastor of St. Ann Parish in Waynesburg, said he believes that Pope Francis is the most appropriate man for the papacy at the present time.
“His humility will lead the Catholic Church,” said Thompson. “That’s what all Christians need; to find that humility based on Jesus Christ himself.”
Thompson also admires the humbleness that Pope Francis has already exemplified. As a cardinal, he used public transportation and elected not to live in an ornate residence.
In the hours after he was named Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis expressed this trait again through his prayers that were broadcast worldwide and in his actions afterward, including his choice to opt for a bus ride with other cardinals instead of the papal limousine.
Thompson believes that this humble man will relate to people of all races and social standings.
“He is already viewed as a successful evangelist and has a deeply rooted solidarity with the poor,” said Thompson.
On Tuesday, CBS News reported that Pope Francis stressed to other cardinals the importance of focusing on eliminating suffering, injustice and ignorance in the Church. Thompson expects the pontiff to help rebuild the Church and humbly lead it to a period of prosperity, a reason why the name Francis is so fitting.
“He chose Francis in honor of St. Francis of Assisi who is well-known for poverty, humility and piety,” said Thompson. “St. Francis reportedly heard the voice of God tell him to rebuild a church, and in a similar sense, God is telling Pope Francis to rebuild the Church around the world.”
He added that all Christians are called to be saints, not just those who are ordained.
“Pope Francis will try to rebuild that sense,” said Thompson.
Though many positives surround Pope Francis’ papacy, the early days of his reign have also been surrounded by questions. Thompson said that Pope Francis has the ability to overcome any controversy that stands in the Church’s path because he is an intellectual that is a teacher of both faith and science.
“Being an intellectual is something a pope has to be,” said Thompson. “Pope Francis’ fields include chemistry and he is a deep thinker. He has a lot to offer the world because his whole life is based on scripture.”
Another concern surrounding Pope Francis’ papacy is his age. At age 76, he is just two years younger than Pope Benedict XVI at the beginning of his papacy. Thompson, however, said that age will not affect Pope Francis’ ability to actively serve the Church.
“Pope Francis has vigor,” said Thompson. “He looks strong, though he is 76. His way of life and his holiness includes taking care of his body. Many people above 70 have vigor, and I believe he seems to be one of them.”
All of these traits, according to Thompson, will make Pope Francis a strong leader of the Church, but as the local minister said, everything starts with a simple smile.
“Pope Francis has a beautiful smile and he loves people,” said Thompson, as he looked at a prayer card with the pontiff’s picture. “That is the most important thing.”