The world welcomed the 266th pope Tuesday with more than 100,000 people crowding into the Vatican City for the inauguration of Pope Francis.
The Very Reverend John D. Hanic, VF, of St. Stephen Catholic Church in Elkin expressed excitement and congratulations toward the new pope’s arrival.
When asked if Elkin parishioners were happy with the choice of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as the new pope, Hanic said the church was very pleased.
“Everybody is happy. I have not heard anyone say ‘Why did they elect him?’ or ‘why did he become pope?’ Instead the opposite: people are very optimistic. I think we look forward now to a new adventure.”
Hanic said the Cardinals in charge of selecting the new pope looked for someone among them who would make a good leader.
“Someone is elected, for instance, to be the leader of all the bishops, not because they are very conservative or because they are very liberal, but because they are well known in the community and admired for the qualities they have and the leadership qualities they have already displayed,” he said.
Hanic said the new pope would be a new face in the Vatican but that the church’s mission would not drastically change. He illustrated the new papacy somewhat like a new boss at a business: the spirit and mood he brings to the office is new and can be inspiring, but the average worker’s job is not changed very much.
“We don’t expect the person to do something totally different than has ever been done before, but on the other hand they bring with them certain spirit and their personality, and already the fact that he’s from the Americas. I think that makes a big difference.”
“I think one of the things that is very interesting about this new pope is that he was a member of the Jesuit order within the church,” he said. The Catholic church is split into two types of priests: Diocesan priests and religious orders like the Franciscans or the Jesuits. Hanic said Francis already showed the Jesuit/pastoral roots he brings with him by wading through the people shaking hands and being more approachable than Pope Benedict XVI had been.
“This Jesuit worked in a parish in Argentina. He worked more with the people all the time. I would say Pope Benedict XVI became more academic where this Cardinal became more pastoral.”
Hanic said the choice of a pope from Latin America did not necessarily mean the next pope would be from that region or from the U.S.
“I don’t know that that really indicates anything, except that they felt that of all of the people, all their brothers that they met with, that he would be a great person to lead and guide the church. I don’t know those people [the Cardinals] but I don’t doubt that they were anything but correct. I think he will be a good person and I feel proud that he is from the Americas. I like it especially that he’s someone who really worked among Spanish-speaking people. I think that is a really great thing,” he said.
“I think each section of the world, where they are from, it does makes a great impact. I would expect he would come to the Americas more often for a visit,” he added.
“I don’t recall a pope visiting Argentina. I’ll bet this one does,” Hanic said.
Will Francis end abuse legacy for church?
With a new pope stepping into a legacy of sexual abuse and scandal, the question of how it will be dealt with by Pope Benedict XVI’s successor is a large one. When asked if Pope Francis and the church would finally be able to put the allegations behind them and move forward, Hanic said the church should not “put it behind them” but address the situation definitely.
“I think still, if there are accusations or if things are not right, they have to be corrected, they need to be made right. It isn’t a question of, say, putting it behind us. Those kind of things to me, personally, are a terrible sadness, not only for the church but for anyone, for any person, that is involved in any of those things. The victims of those things, the perpetrators of those things; it’s not a light thing, it’s an awful thing, a horrible thing that occurs,” Hanic said.
“I think the church as a whole has been trying to work toward that kind of goal. The bishops of this country have really tried to implement policies and directives that would try to prevent these things from occurring, but I still think there is much to be done,” added Hanic. He went on to say that society needs to continually be on the lookout for threats like this, whether it be in the church or anywhere.
Are two popes too many?
Hanic said the new arrangement of a living former pope would be a good thing for the two men, not a hindrance to Francis. He said the responsibilities of the pope were and are very great, and it was smart of Pope Benedict XVI to retire because he would have been run down by the demands. In this way he can be a friend to Pope Francis and meet with him occasionally if the two want, but he will not tell Francis how to conduct the office or how to appear in public.
“Everyone will bring with them a different viewpoint to the papacy; that’s the good of it. This is going to bring a new spirit, a new happiness, to the church that is long deserved, and hopefully he will do really good things,” Hanic said.
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