Many Oklahoma City-area Roman Catholics gathered Thursday for a special Mass of thanksgiving and celebration for Pope Francis, the newly elected pontiff from Latin America.
The crowd of about 365 people who attended the Mass at Our Lady's Cathedral, 3214 N Lake Ave., included Catholics from all across the metro area, as well as students from Bishop John Carroll. The Catholic grade school is affiliated with Our Lady's Cathedral.
As they walked near the church's altar, attendees could see a large picture of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, of Buenos Aires, Argentina, who was elected pope on Wednesday.
In his homily, Archbishop Paul S. Coakley talked about the significance behind the new pope's choice of Francis as his papal name. Newly elected pontiffs traditionally choose a name to identify themselves during their reign.
As described in the Bible, God gave new names to people when He was assigning them a new mission, Coakley said. He said Abram became Abraham, the father of many nations; Saul of Tarsus became Paul, preacher to the Gentiles; and Simon became Peter, the “rock” on which the Christian faith would be built.
Coakley said the new pope has yet to share his reasons for choosing Francis as his papal name, but it is important to note that he is the first pope to do so. The archbishop said the new pontiff's name choice tells the faithful much about him because the name belongs to St. Francis Xavier, co-founder of the Jesuit order to which the new pope belongs, and another Francis — St. Francis of Assisi — is the patron saint of the poor.
Coakley said St. Francis of Assisi turned down a life of wealth in favor of a life spent living among and serving the poor and downtrodden. Coakley said the new pope, too, chose to live simply by forsaking the mansion where he could have lived as a cardinal in favor of an apartment and opting for public transit instead of the chauffeured limousine his predecessors used for transportation.
“They tell us about his style certainly, but also about his virtue,” Coakley said of these examples. “He is a man of profound humility and simplicity and poverty of life.”
Coakley encouraged the faithful to pray for their new leader and to express their gratitude to God for sharing him as a gift to the Catholic Church.
Madeline Bui, 69, of Oklahoma City, said she attended the Mass to do just that.
“We will love him and we will keep praying for him,” Bui said after the service. “We thank God.”
Another attendee, the Rev. Michael Chapman, pastor of Holy Angels, said he and his parish, made up mostly of Hispanics, are excited that the new pope is from the Americas and that he seems to be a man who will place emphasis on aiding the poor.
“This man has a history of doing that in Argentina — in symbolic gestures and through his ministry,” Chapman said. “This is a seasoned veteran, so he has something to offer us.”
Tina Dzurisin, the archdiocese's new communication's director, said the Mass was a fitting way to pay tribute to the new pope.
“While we were celebrating here in Oklahoma City, the Mass is a great reminder that we're part of the universal Church because it's the same everywhere you go,” she said. “That's why it was a great way to celebrate the new pope.
The new pope's installation is set for Tuesday in Vatican City.