By Cathy Harasta
The Texas Catholic
Dallas Bishop Kevin J. Farrell lauded the March 13 election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio just hours after the Argentine Jesuit’s introduction to the world as Pope Francis, the modern era’s first non-European pontiff, the first pope from South America and the first Jesuit to become the Holy Father.
“What a great day this is,” Bishop Farrell told a news conference at the Diocese of Dallas’ Pastoral Center. “There’s excitement all over the world and especially in the Catholic Church.”
Bishop Farrell called the election of the first pope from Latin America “very significant,” and praised the humility, scholarship and administrative accomplishments of the new pontiff.
His roots in Argentina made his election an exceptional event globally and for the Diocese of Dallas’ large Hispanic population, said Bishop Farrell.
“In a special way, for those who speak Spanish, this is a great day,” the bishop said. “This man is a brilliant intellectual, but at the same time, I would say he is a priest of the people.
“He will have a tremendous following from all over the world…He, I think, will inject a great spirit of enthusiasm in the Latin people.”
The bishop said it was a great honor to have an “American” pope.
Bishop Farrell will celebrate Masses of Thanksgiving at the Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe on March 17, at 10:30 a.m. in Spanish and at noon in English.
Pope Francis, 76, received the required two-thirds majority of the 115 cardinal-electors’ votes on the fifth ballot during the conclave’s second day. Vote totals are not released.
Bishop Farrell said that the papal conclave result surprised him, as Cardinal Bergoglio’s name had not ranked among the names most often mentioned as potential successors to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who announced on Feb. 11 that he would resign on Feb. 28.
But Pope Francis’ reputation as a “humble, simple priest” was widely known, Bishop Farrell said.
Bishop Farrell said that he recalled being in St. Peter’s Square when Pope John Paul I was elected, and that the crowd then was smaller than the throng for the election of Pope Francis.
Bishop Farrell called Pope Francis a tireless champion of the poor in Argentina and a reformer of the Diocese of Buenos Aires.
Pope Francis demonstrated humility and a focus on people right from the start, said Bishop Farrell, who cited the new pontiff’s request for the people’s blessing before he blessed them.
Msgr. Michael Olson, rector of Holy Trinity Seminary in Irving, said that the new pontiff’s selection of the name Francis was significant.
“I think just by his appearance on the balcony today I saw a man of peace,” said Msgr. Olson, a papal expert. “I also think his choice of name as Francis is significant because I think that has many layers of meaning: Francis is the patron saint of Italy so it ingratiates him to the Italian people; of course, Francis is universally loved by all men and women of goodwill; and Francis is very much associated with those in dire poverty.”
Msgr. Olson said that he was somewhat surprised that the papal conclave did not last perhaps one more day, but that the cardinal-electors indeed took their responsibility seriously.
“I just think the Holy Spirit got to work a little faster than we expected,” he said. “I’m joyfully surprised by this. I think it is a great day in the life and history of the church.”