Oklahomans react to newly elected Latin American pope

The election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina, as the new leader of 1.2 billion Catholics came as a pleasant surprise, several Oklahoma Catholic leaders said.
BY CARLA HINTON chinton@opubco.com Modified: March 13, 2013 at 8:55 pm •  Published: March 14, 2013

Simple man

Coakley said Bergoglio, who will be called Pope Francis, is a Jesuit who has lived a simple personal lifestyle. He said as an Argentine cardinal, Bergoglio chose to live in a simple apartment and ride public transportation in lieu of fancier accoutrements.

Garcia, a native of New York who is of Puerto Rican descent, said Bergoglio is a “powerhouse of a man — not in stature, but in his strength in proclaiming the message of Christ.”

Garcia said the new pope is not known for “watering down God's Word. He calls a spade a spade.”

Garcia said he thinks all Latinos will experience a sense of identifying with the new pontiff because of the papal leader's shared roots.

“He identifies with us. He understands our struggles and our fears,” Garcia said.

Garcia said Catholicism's spread in several non-European areas made the choice of a Latin American pope less shocking. He said he also noticed that Pope Benedict XVI appointed many Latin American clergy leaders as cardinals, seeming to “stack the deck” in favor of a papal leader from outside Europe.

Snow, a schoolteacher who is director of Hispanic Ministry at Edmond's St. Monica Catholic Church, said she had not heard much about Bergoglio on Wednesday but she thinks that he will have a particular compassion for the poor and needy.

“Just the fact that he is from the Southern Hemisphere where many countries are Third World countries, he is, I'm sure, in touch with the needs of the people who live on the edge, who are marginalized,” she said.

“This is just incredible news. Our Holy Father is our Papa.”

The Rev. Roberto Quant, pastor of Sacred Heart Catholic Church, shared similar sentiments. Quant, who is of Chinese and Nicaraguan descent, leads the church with the largest Hispanic population in the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City.

He said his parishioners are certain to be excited about the new pope from Argentina.

“This shows that we have wonderful gifts in the New World — we have wonderful leaders — leaders who are gifts to the church,” Quant said.

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