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Brandon Catholics Excited By New Pope, Choice of Name Francis

Catholics throughout the area tuned in today as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was named pope.

While Nativity Catholic Church’s pastor, the Rev. Arthur Proulx, and his parochial vicars, the Revs. Carlos Rojas and Nelson Restrepo, gathered in the Brandon church to watch the news of the election of a pope with Nativity Catholic School children, other Brandon Catholics were busy sharing the news on Tweets and Facebook pages.

There was a sense of excitement among local Catholics with today’s announcement that Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, 76, had been elected pope.

He is the first pope to choose the name Francis, the same name as two of the Catholic Church’s most venerated saints, St. Francis of Assisi, who lived a life of poverty as an itinerant missionary, and Saint Francis Xavier, who founded the Society of Jesus with St. Ignatius of Loyola in 1540, known for its emphasis on scholarship.

The archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, Pope Francis I is not only the first Jesuit pope but is the first Latin American pope as well. That is especially significant since 39 percent of the world's Catholics live in Latin America.

"I married into a Catholic family," said Margel Lamb-Leon of Brandon. "And I have to admit that this new guy's history has me interested."

As archbishop of Buenos Aires, the new pope cooked his own meals and used public transportation.

"He is down-to-earth, simple and warm," said Lamb-Leon. "He is known for walking the streets and praying with people. I hope that the church can be known for its charity once again."

Lifelong Catholic Vince Ferraro, a member of Nativity Catholic Church and founder of the I Am Hope Cafe, which provides food, clothing and counseling services to the homeless, was driving when he heard the news of the pope's election.

"When I heard them announce that there was white smoke, I was elated," said Ferraro. "To use a sports analogy, this is our Super Bowl. There's always a great deal of excitement and enthusiasm around the naming of a new pope.

Ferraro said he was surprised to learn the new pope hails from Argentina.

"Instead of choosing someone from Europe, they selected someone from Latin American where the Catholic Church is growing by leaps and bounds," said Ferraro.

Ferraro said he was surprised that the new pope chose the name of a saint (Francis of Assisi) known for his compassion for the poor, rather than assuming one of the traditional names for the Vicar of Christ.

"He seems to be a very humble man. His opening speech was very down-to-earth," Ferraro said. "I think it's fantastic that he chose that name."

Anastashia Beaverhausen also was thrilled to learn about the new pope's background.

"I am a Catholic by choice (converted to the church nine years ago this coming Easter), and I am thrilled that he is from Latin America and even more thrilled that he is a Jesuit," she said. "I believe the voters were moved by the power of the Holy Spirit. As we say at the end of Mass, 'Thanks be to God.'"

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