‘Thanks be to God’
By Richardson Dhalai and Cecily Asson Thursday, March 14 2013
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Football fan: In a file photo Archbishop of Buenos Aires Jorge Mario Bergoglio poses with the emblem of San Lorenzo football team which he supports in...
“We have a Pope! Thanks be to God!”
That was the joyous exclamation of Archbishop of Port-of-Spain Joseph Harris, following the election of Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, 76, as the 266th Pope of the world’s 1.6 billion Catholics.
Bergoglio, a Jesuit from Buenos Aires, Argentina, has taken the name Francis, and is the first Pope from South America.
Speaking to reporters at the Lady of Mt Carmel RC Church, St Mary’s Junction, Freeport, Archbishop Harris also described the new Pope Francis as a “good man” who was poised to usher in a new era in the Catholic Church.
“I worked in Latin America for many years so I am very happy and the name he has taken Francis. Francis Xavier was a great missionary, a Jesuit also, so I think we may have a Pope who is very concerned about the Missions, who is not going to concentrate on Europe as much as the growing churches in Latin American, in Africa, in Asia,” Harris said, adding, “so I think we are at the start of a new era in the Church.”
“I have never met this one but while I was a missionary in Paraguay, he was the Archbishop of Buenos Aires. He’s a good man,” Harris said.
Meanwhile, Harris, asked how he felt when he first saw the “white smoke” (the sign of the election of a new Pope), said, “a feeling of elation.”
“I was very happy. A bit surprised because this was only the fifth ballot so I was a bit surprised,” Harris said, adding, “I thought it might take a little longer. I was thinking that perhaps tomorrow, at some time so it’s a bit of a surprise in many ways.”
Harris surmised that in the weeks following the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, the Cardinals had held informal meetings to discuss who should be the next Pope.
“Evidently in the weeks since Pope Benedict resigned and while the Cardinals were in Rome, evidently in the meetings, they came very quickly to realise this was the man and so we had a conclave which ended very quickly,” he said.
Asked whether the Caribbean region may benefit from having a Latin American Pope, he said, “Well I would think since Latin America and the Caribbean are lumped together very often, I would think that somehow his attention to Latin America will spill over into the Caribbean.
But we have to wait and see.”
Asked what changes the new Pope may bring to the Papacy, Harris laughed and said, “that I don’t know, we will have to wait and see but as I say, I think the Holy Spirit and God never leaves his church unattended.”
The Archbishop said while the Catholic Church was experiencing falling membership in Europe, the United States and Canada, it was experiencing growth in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
“If you are asking me whether the Church will evangelize in deeper ways, if you are asking me whether the Church will allow things like same sex marriage, and that kind of thing, I think not, there will be no change where that is concerned,” Harris said.
“But I would think that he would be very worried or concerned to ensure that the faith in Europe and America is strengthened and developed but I think he would also be concerned that the young churches in Africa, in Asia in Latin America that they will be strengthened because that is where the majority of Catholics are found,” Harris said.
Asked whether Pope Francis’ age may have been a factor in his election, Harris said, “No I don’t think so. I think the cardinals thought he was the best man for the job.”
Asked whether the new Pope would tackle the issue of priestly sexual misconduct head-on, he said, “I don’t know because he has never been in the position where that was a problem, when I was in Latin Aremica that certainly wasn’t a big thing.”
“But it’s a problem he will have to deal with and I suppose he will deal with it in a way the Holy Spirit will inspire him,’ Harris added.
The local Church is expected to hold a special mass to commemorate the election of Pope Francis on Sunday at the Pro-Cathedral, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Harris Promenade, San Fernando at 3 pm.
Monsignor Christian Pereira, parish priest of the Pro-Cathedral, said the election of Pope Francis is a proud moment for the Americas.