By Paul Thornton
4:15 PM CDT, March 13, 2013
Much of the punditocracy and news coverage in reaction to the election of Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Pope Francis I has focused on the novelty of placing the first Latin American and the first Jesuit -- and the first Francis -- on the Chair of St. Peter. The same goes for readers so far who have sent their reactions to email@example.com.
But whereas journalists and commentators have focused on what Francis' ascension means for reform at the Vatican and addressing several serious issues -- including priest sex abuse -- readers have reacted as if they were among the throngs of jubilant Catholics at St. Peter's Square. They warmly welcomed their new pope and noted his humble qualities. Here is a selection of those letters.
Paul Kokoski, a reader and frequent letter writer from Canada, says Francis' personal attributes will make him a strong defender of the faith:
"With deep joy I offer Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio my warm congratulations and most fervent good wishes on his election to the papacy.
"Bergoglio is a man rich in spiritual passion, humility, self-denial and love for the cause of God and of man. As Pope Francis, he brings to the papacy a brilliant philosophical and, in particular, theological mind that has embraced a vision of broad spiritual and ecclesiastical horizons: personal holiness, missionary outreach combined with constant concern for unity, and the necessary integration of spirituality and institutional ministry.
"His episcopal motto, 'miserando atque eligendo,' has strengthened and guided him in his tireless and uncompromising efforts aimed at defending and promoting the Catholic faith and its morals against modern errors in an age in which the Catholic Church has suffered unprecedented persecution and martyrdom.
"The new pope has also worked to encourage studies aimed at increasing knowledge of the faith so that the new problems arising from the progress of science and civilization can be answered in the light of the word of God.
"The aim for which he has always striven has been to serve the truth, seek to know it ever more thoroughly and make it ever more widely known.
"May the Lord lavish his choicest heavenly reward upon our new vicar of Christ, Francis I."
Huntington Beach resident Kenneth Zimmerman, also a frequent mailbag contributor, finds much to like about the new pontiff -- but raises one concern:
"The election of the Argentine Bergoglio as the new pope of the Catholic Church is historic for a number of reasons.
"He is the first-ever pope from Latin America, which is home to at least 40% of today's Catholics.
"He is the first Pope Francis in church history, taking his name from a saint who emphasized devotion to the poor, simplicity, humility, humbleness, modesty and rebuilding the church. This is encouraging for those hoping for change and reform.
"And he is the first Jesuit pope, a Catholic order whose priests often live modestly and promote education and intellectual research.
"The only question I have is about his age, which is 76. Does Francis have the energy and vitality to bring about reform?"
Valley Glen resident Rhys Thomas comically chalks up the coincidence of the pope's election and another news item to the Almighty:
"I now believe in divine intervention, given the election of a new pope and the resurrection of Twinkies, all on the same day!"