Catholics around the world celebrated the selection of a new pope in Rome yesterday. Most Reverend John J. Myers, the archbishop of Newark, told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that he was a bit surprised by the decision but filled with a great deal of joy.
Pope Francis is the first pope from South America, hailing from Argentina. Myers said his selection shows the flexibility of the church and highlights its openness to people around the world. He explained that almost 40 percent of Catholics live in South America so he believes it’s also a recognition of that continent’s importance.
“This new Pope Francis is a humble man, a pastoral man and I think his presentation of himself was dramatically humble,” Myers said. “Before he gave his blessing, he bowed and asked the people to pray over him for god’s blessing on him. And I thought this is a guy who knows what’s going on.”
Myers said Pope Francis reminds him of Pope John XXIII. “I remember that Pope John would try to visit parishes in Rome, prisons, hospitals and that’s what he [Pope Francis] has done in Buenos Aires and I suspect that we’re going to see that kind of pastoral touch throughout his papacy,” Myers said.
While Myers said Pope Francis won’t change the central doctrines of the church, he believes the new pope will change how others may view it. “I think he will transform a style and the impression of the church as cold-hearted or abstract or withdrawn from people because I think he will be … a people’s pope.”
Pope Francis is also the first pope who was a Jesuit priest. Myers said Jesuits are often viewed as intellectuals in the church because of most of the Catholic universities in the United States are run by Jesuits, including Saint Peter’s University in Jersey City.
“Their founder was a soldier before he was converted to missionary life and found a religious community. So they have a pretty strict discipline. That’s part of their training,” Myers said. “In fact, their training takes much longer than training for other priests.”
Many have pointed out that Pope Francis will have to deal with the darker side of the Catholic Church, including the sex scandal. Myers said the new pope will obviously have to address it. He said since 2002, bishops in the United States have been straightforward in addressing the sex scandals but other countries haven’t had issues surface until more recently. One cardinal even excused himself from the conclave because of scandal surrounding him.
Another issue with the church is the Vatican bank, which needs to come into compliance with the European Union for it to maintain its status.