WATERVILLE — Excitement spread among the area’s Catholic community Wednesday as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina, was elected pope.

The Rev. Joseph Daniels, pastor of the Waterville-based Corpus Christi Parish, watched the announcement on a large screen as he gathered with children at St. John Catholic School in Winslow.
Daniels said afterward he thinks Pope Francis’ election is a recognition of the prominence of Latin America in global Catholicism; it also is a recognition of the need for the church to engage the ways of an experienced pastor.

“He has a reputation for engaging people in a very conversational way,” Daniels said.

Bergoglio was born in Buenos Aires and is the son of Italian immigrants.

“I do know that in Buenos Aires, he lived in his own apartment, he used public transportation, he was very down-to-earth,” he said.

Daniels said the fact that the new pope asked the people to pray for him before he imparted his first apostolic blessing on them allowed insight into the spirit and the sense of church that he will bring to his papacy. The pope effectively was saying the church is a church of both priests and people, according to Daniels.

“He has a long record of service and ministry to the clergy, both the Jesuit order and the priests of the world,” he said. “At the same time, I think that we’ve seen something very profound  in his initial gestures and expressions from the balcony of St. Peter’s.”

Nuns at the order of the Servants of the Blessed Sacrament on Silver Street gathered around the television to watch the announcement and hear the new pope speak.

“I think he has a real sense of peace,” Sister Catherine Marie Caron said. “It emanates from him.”
She recalled being in Rome when Pope John Paul I was elected, and again when Pope John Paul II was chosen.

“I feel as if I’m there again,” she said, just moments after hearing Pope Francis speak. “It’s like being there, because the television is even better in terms of seeing. It’s a beautiful thing to see. God bless him; God help him. He’s got a big load on his shoulders.”

She said she was impressed by his announcement that his first service was to the city of Rome as Bishop of Rome.

“I think what was beautiful was that he took the pains to highlight that.”

Like Daniels, she also was moved by the new pope’s request that people to pray for him before he offered them his blessing.

Peter Joseph, deacon of St. Joseph Maronite Catholic Church on Appleton Street, said he views Pope Francis as very similar to Pope John XXIII, who was elected in 1958 and died in 1963.

“I always like to tell the story that the Swiss Guards were looking for him one evening and they couldn’t find him anywhere,” said Joseph. “They were panicking. The pope was amongst the people in a poor area. When he was discovered, they told him, ‘Do you realize we were looking for you?’” He said, ‘How can I treat my people unless I know how they live?’ From that time on, I knew he was great. I think Pope Francis is going to be a lot like that. Already they’re saying he’s humble. He has humility.”

Bishop Richard J. Malone of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland said in a statement that the pope’s selection was “a moment of tremendous grace,” and he asked Maine Catholics “to join me united in prayer.”

“As the first Holy Father from the Americas, I was impressed with Pope Francis’ humility and spontaneity as he began his first blessing to the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square, by asking everyone to pause in silent prayer, to pray for him and bless him,” Malone said. “That was a powerful moment.”

Sue Cote, principal of Mount Merici School on Western Avenue, watched a live feed of the announcement with staff members and children in the after-school program.

“We watched it live along with everyone else and took pictures of the children and posted it on Facebook,” Cote said. “It is a very exciting time. We’re extremely hopeful. We’re looking for very positive things to happen, and we’re just very excited.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247
acalder@centralmaine.com