Pope Francis Sparks Glee, Optimism from Maryland Heights Catholics
The white smoke appeared on Wednesday, signalling that the conclave had chosen Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio to be the new head of the Catholic Church.
At around 2 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, Mary Bachinski, a Maryland Heights resident and owner of Catholic Gifts and Books in Chesterfield, received a call with from her sister with some exciting news.
White smoke had been spotted at the Vatican. Bachinski hollered out to everyone in the store “We’ve got a new pope!” prompting squeals of excitement and sending people reaching for their phones.
A lifelong Catholic, Bachinski said the College of Cardinals selection of Jose Bergoglio was a surprise, but added she trusts that they went with the best choice. In any case, she called the news a blessing.
“It’s wonderful to have our leader in place,” she said, especially as the church's biggest holiday, Easter, draws closer.
The selection of the South American Archbishop, the first pope from outside of Europe in a millennia and the third in a row not from Italy.
That papal outfit will come with a host of challenges as the Catholic Church’s leader, ranging from the continuing controversy over the child sex abuse scandal to managing dwindling pews in the West and rapidly expanding congregations in Africa and Asia.
However, for Catholics around the world, the appointment of Pope Francis is a moment of hope for the church’s future.
Bachinski said she believes he is up for the task and could be in some ways better suited for the position than his predecessor, the now retired Pope Benedict.
“I think Pope Benedict was so scholarly that he may not have related as well to the people,” she said. “This pope might have an advantage in that area.”