The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

March 14, 2013

Ashtabula County Catholics weigh in on the new pope

By MARGIE NETZEL and SHELLEY TERRY
Star Beacon

— The holy time of Easter is the perfect setting for the rebirth of the Catholic following with a new pope and a new outlook on the papacy, Our Lady of Peace Pastor Ernesto Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez and local Catholics discussed the election of the new Argentinean pontiff, Pope Francis on Wednesday.

The former Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina replaced the retired Pope Benedict XVI, who is the first pontiff to resign in 600 years.

“To have a new pope so close to Easter is very important,” Rodriguez said. “It just shows us how God works, bringing a new spirit of life during this holy time.”

Rodriguez has been the pastor at Our Lady of Peace for nearly two years and said he is excited but surprised to see an Argentinean pope.

“I am surprised the new pope will be an Argentinean, but I think he will do well because he will bring a new expectation of leadership to the church,” Rodriguez said.

In a prepared statement,  Bishop George V. Murry, of the Youngstown Diocese, for which Ashtabula County is a part of, said, “The Catholic community of the Diocese of Youngstown rejoices at the election of Pope Francis, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina. Pope Francis has said he will be a bishop of the people, and asked the world to pray for him, while he blesses us.

“We offer the new pope our best wishes and promise him our prayers as he continues the mission of St. Peter to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to the world,”  Murry said.

Chris Lachey of Jefferson said it’s wonderful because he’s for the poor. He cooked his own meals and lived in the slums with the poor.

“He seems very humble,” she said.

Roland Nelson of Jefferson said it was exciting.

“Hopefully, he can handle the mess that he is getting into,” he said.

Rodriguez said he doesn’t know much about the new leader of the Catholic church, but he likes what he has seen of Bergoglio so far.

“We will see if he is progressive, but from what I saw of him on TV, he looks very humble, but very confident and very secure in the sense that he wants to do the best in this papacy,” he said.

A Latin American pope also gives a new voice to the more than 42 percent of Catholics worldwide who are Latin American, Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez is from Peru.

“I think that a Latin American brings a new sort of experience to the church. When we consider that 42 percent of Catholics around the world are Latin American, we see that (Bergoglio) represents a big number of Catholics worldwide,” he said.

Rita Sarell of Ashtabula said the most beautiful thing is that he is humble. She watched everyone on TV and was so excited when Pope Francis said, “Let us pray silently in this prayer for me,” and bowed his head.

“It’s wonderful,” she said. “I didn’t believe he would be the one. I never knew his name.”

But, Sarell said she is thrilled with Pope Francis. He’s the first Jesuit pope and he’s the 265th successor of St. Peter.