AUGUSTA — Excitement spread among the Catholic community Wednesday as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina was named Pope Francis.

Augusta-based St. Michael Parish, which includes five churches in central Maine, rang church bells at St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church on Western Avenue and draped its church doors with yellow ribbon to mark the selection of a new pope.

The Rev. Francis Morin, administrator of St. Michael Parish, said the selection of Pope Francis was “totally unexpected” and he joked that he “liked the name.”

“I’m really excited,” Morin said minutes after learning about the news.

Pope Francis is the first pope from the Americas. Morin, who has served in Bolivia and is familiar with the Argentine church, said he imagined Latin America was “going wild” at the pope’s selection.
“It’s a very strong church, with about half the population of Argentina,” Morin said.

Morin said prayers would be said for Pope Francis at a parish retreat Wednesday night and at Mass on this morning. Morin said the parish also would get portraits of Pope Francis I to display in appropriate places, such as at St. Michael School in Augusta.

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.”

In Waterville, 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,” she said.

She also noted that before offering the public his blessing, he asked that the public pray for him.

Peter Joseph, deacon of St. Joseph Maronite Catholic Church on Appleton Street in Waterville, said he views Pope Francis as 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, the first deacon ordained in Maine, in 1986. “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.”

The Rev. Joseph Daniels, pastor of the Waterville-based Corpus Christi Parish, watched the activities with children at St. John Catholic School in Winslow.

Daniels said afterward that he thinks the election of the pope is a recognition of the prominence of Latin America in global Catholicism; it also is a recognition of the church’s need to engage the ways of an experienced pastor.

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

Born in Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was of Italian ancestry, according to Daniels.
 “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.

Like Sister Catherine Marie Caron, Daniels said the fact that the new pope asked for 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.”

Keith Edwards — 621-5647
[email protected]

Amy Calder — 861-9247
[email protected]

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