BY A.J. MILLER
Taking the name Francis, Argentina’s Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio became the first Latin-American pope in the history of the church.
In the days following his election, Pope Francis surprised many with both his spontaneity and pastoral humility, such as unexpectedly stopping to pray at the Basilica of St. Mary Major the day after his election, riding the bus with the cardinals rather than in the “Popemobile,” visiting his hotel to pay his bill, and taking a walk on the streets of Rome.
Catholic News Service reported that he told the audience at his first midday Angelus on Sunday, March 17, “The Lord never tires of forgiving– it is we who tire of asking for forgiveness.”
Earlier, he had shared the theme of Divine Mercy in his homily at the Church of St. Anne inside Vatican City: “”It is not easy to trust in the mercy of God, because that is an incomprehensible abyss. But we must do it.”
Francis was elected in a two-day, five-round conclave that began Tuesday, March 12 and ended the next day at roughly 7 pm, Vatican time. The newly elected pope, a Jesuit, asked the public to pray for him before he gave the traditional first blessing.
Vatican spokesman the Rev. Tom Rosica told CNN that the pontiff took the name in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, in order to show that he is a friend of the poor. Rosica went on to say that Pope Francis wants to bring the church “back to basics.”
The reaction among Franciscan University of Steubenville’s students was of overwhelming support for the pope.
Junior Nathan Sisson said, “I think him choosing the name Francis really shows that he wants to take us to Franciscan roots, and to practice poverty, humility and renouncing the world.”
Dan Davis, a senior studying in Oxford this semester said: “I was really hoping for a Hilarius II or Sixtus VI.”
Graduate student Ian Barnstead said: “This is an exciting time for the Church. I look forward to what Pope Francis will be doing to lead the Church”
Sophomore Nick Ward said: “This definitely signals a new chapter in the new evangelization. It’s exciting to speculate on what our new pope Francis is capable of. Given his Jesuit roots and choice of name … I think we can see a new emphasis on spreading the gospel in the new world and elsewhere. The papacy of Benedict was one of reform. Now it’s time to take the next step and spread the message that the church has survived its scandals and its struggles and is stronger still, strong enough to continue its work of evangelization.”
Elizabeth Wong contributed to this story.