Pope Francis's election excites Penn Catholics
Students applaud the new Pope's humility and community service credentials
March 17, 2013, 10:30 pm·
As soon as Pope Francis I was elected, Penn Catholic Student Association President and College junior Margaret Buff’s Facebook newsfeed was flooded with statuses.
Even people who weren’t “super Catholic,” she added, were posting about the pope.
Pope Francis I was elected Wednesday after the resignation of Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI on Feb. 28 — marking the election of the first non-European pope in centuries. Penn students are excited about his focus on community service and the diversity he brings to the Vatican.
Francis I is the first pope from Latin America as well as the first Jesuit pope. According to Penn Newman Assistant Director Jeff Klein, Jesuits are known for their education and their work with the poor.
“[The] idea that they would elect a Jesuit is a big deal,” Klein said. “On the surface at least he seems to bring a different demeanor than Pope Benedict did.”
The Penn Catholic community hopes that his papacy will refocus attention onto the positive aspects of the Catholic Church.
“I think he’ll do a really good job at changing people’s views about the church,” Penn Newman Secretary and Nursing junior Katie Gallagher said. “I think he’ll highlight the good things that the pope does and take away things from the church sex scandals.”
Most students were surprised by Francis’ election. Although he was a runner-up in the 2005 papal conclave, according to CNN, he wasn’t considered a major contender this time.
“He wasn’t among the favorites or among the frontrunners,” Wharton junior Fernando Castro said.
However, people were still hoping for a non-European pope, Gallagher said.
This conclave also brought Catholics at Penn closer together, Buff said.
“I was actually pretty impressed because as soon as it happened, Facebook exploded,” Klein added.
According to Catro, Francis is known for his humility and his commitment to serving the needy.
His namesake, St. Francis, grew up in a wealthy Italian family, but eventually turned to a life of poverty. Choosing this name indicates that the new pope is hoping to emulate St. Francis, Klein said.
Klein noted that upon his election, Francis asked the crowd to bless him instead of blessing the crowd — a sign of his humbleness. Francis also chose to take the bus to the Vatican following his election instead of taking the papal car.
Based on his background, Penn Catholics are expecting Francis to address problems of inequality and poverty and improve how the church helps the needy, Castro added.
“He’ll likely be focusing on social justice, not on conflicts of the church,” Buff said.