David Crabtree on Assignment

New pope brings renewed hope for local Catholics

Posted March 13, 2013

— Roman Catholics in the Triangle reacted with excitement and were filled with hope Wednesday afternoon upon receiving the news that Pope Francis, a Jesuit cardinal from Argentina, has been chosen to lead the church.

"It's very exciting," Bishop Michael Burbidge, of the Catholic Diocese of Raleigh, said Wednesday, hours after Jorge Bergoglia bowed and asked the crowd of thousands gathered in St. Peter's Square to pray for him.

"That's what I'm asking the faithful (in my congregation): To respond generously to that request," Burbidge said. "Here's a humble servant who knows he needs our prayers, so let's give him that gift."

In taking the name Francis, the newly elected pope drew connections to the 13th century St. Francis of Assisi, who saw his calling as trying to rebuild the church in a time of turmoil.

That's no surprise for those familiar with Pope Francis' background.

"What we do know of him, he is a champion of the working-class person," said Father Dan Oshwald, of the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in downtown Raleigh. "He has worked with the poor, and he is known to walk the streets of Buenos Aires in the evening and to talk to the people."

Local Catholics hope new pope will bring change

Stanley Hauerwas, a professor of theological ethics at Duke Divinity School, agrees.

"I thought that (the cardinals) would choose someone that would signal that the church is deeply concerned about the poor and that it is, indeed, the church of the poor," Hauerwas said. "That is the way to give the church direction away from the kinds of sexual scandals that have become so prominent."

For years, Pope Francis has been recognized a humble man who denied himself the luxuries that previous Buenos Aires cardinals enjoyed.

He often rode the bus to work, cooked his own meals and visited the slums in the capital. He considers social outreach, rather than doctrinal battles, to be the essential business of the church.

Bishop Michael Burbidge Local Catholics react to new pope

He has in the past accused fellow church leaders of hypocrisy and forgetting that Jesus Christ bathed lepers and ate with prostitutes.

Hauerwas said he believes Bergoglia's decision to be called Francis is "a clear sign that he is going to direct the church's attention to issues of justice for the poor."

St. Francis is a much-beloved Italian saint who is identified with peace, poverty and a simple lifestyle. He was a rich young man from Assisi who renounced wealth and founded the Franciscan order of friars in 1290.

The name choice could also foretell the pope's priorities in striving to bring a sense of serenity to the Catholic church and a unity among all Christians.

"Unity must be ours, not just in the Catholic church but as God's family," Burbidge said. "So that all people know that we are really brothers and sisters, so let's work together to be united and to reflect the peace that Christ so much wants in our world."


Please with your WRAL.com account to comment on this story. You also will need a Facebook account to comment.

Oldest First
View all
  • 321oohaw Mar 14, 2013

    I think as an Italian he could have picked something more appropriate than Francis. Maybe Guiseppe, Vito, Franky, Joey, Luigi, etc?

  • DontVote4LiarsCheatsOrThieves Mar 14, 2013

    "The sex-scandal thing is so passé these days; can you anti-religious haters come-up with something more original & legitimate to gripe about?"

    Until everyone guilty of the crime and everyone who hid them has been brought to trial, it's far from passe.

  • DontVote4LiarsCheatsOrThieves Mar 14, 2013

    Am no longer Catholic (haven't been for many years), but this man seems to be a breath of fresh air. I pray he's a blessing to many during his tenure.

  • Grand Union Mar 14, 2013

    "@Viewer Please explain what exactly a 'secular' Catholic is? "

    Someone who is culturally Catholic but is not a believer anymore?
    I'm a secular Scottish Presbyterian :)

  • Grand Union Mar 14, 2013

    "The sex-scandal thing is so passé these days; can you anti-religious haters come-up with something more original & legitimate to gripe about?"

    Passe? how so, many of those responsible are still bishops and cardinals....the scandal wasn't that some priests molested kids, that not something unique to Priests....the Scandal was that the Church covered it up and enabled the crimes to continue. If it happens at Penn State the people that covered up faced trial and prison.....in the Catholic Church.....nothing.

  • more cowbell Mar 14, 2013

    Maybe he will start a Boy Scout troop in Argentina.

  • superman Mar 14, 2013

    djhartm Guess you didnt hear or read that the catholics in California agreed to pay out ten million JUST last week. I hope the new pope will allow his gay priests to marry. They have been hiding in the "church" for way too long. To compound the problem other priests helped by hiding the scandal and sending them to another parish to start all over again.

  • 321oohaw Mar 14, 2013

    If the Catholics pray for him doesn't he have to in return pray for each of the 1.2 billion individually? That is around 850,000 prayers a day, he will be exhausted!

  • 4 kicks Mar 14, 2013

    I'm not a Catholic but I respect their religion and wish the new Pope strength and peace.

  • smegma Mar 14, 2013

    you're crazy if you think Benedict resigned just before Easter because of some scandal.

    any news that comes out of the Vatican is planned. it was "exposed" on purpose. why, i don't know, but this "new Pope" news is irrelevant. i'm still focused on "first pope to resign in SIX HUNDRED YEARS", as you should be too




About this Blog:

WRAL anchor David Crabtree reports from around the world.