New Pope Francis Elected: Middletown Catholic Leaders React
The white smoke appeared on Wednesday, signaling that the conclave had chosen Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio to be the new head of the Catholic Church
White smoke rose from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel Wednesday afternoon, signifying that two-thirds, or 77 of the 115 Cardinals eligible to vote, have agreed on the man to succeed Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
Pope Francis, formerly Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina, will lead the Catholic Church. Bergoglio is the first Jesuit in Papal history and was the runner up behind Benedict in the last Papal conclave.
The news that an announcement was forthcoming from Rome was greeted with cheers by many of the 700 schoolchildren about to be dismissed from school at St. Mary's Elementary.
With the sound of pealing bells from the Mary, Mother of God church in the background, Campus Minister Mary Jean Marsch informed the students a pope had been chosen. "Everybody froze when they heard her voice come over the PA system," said Principal Charles Kroekel. "There was great reverence and enthusiasm in her voice. They felt it; she felt it. There was emotion," said Kroekel.
Father Jeff Kegley, the pastor of St. Mary's parish in Middletown said he was ecstatic that Bergoglio was chosen, who he described as a "humble" Latin American with Italian roots, and who studied in Germany.
"Someone like him, from Argentina, brings together the first world and the developing world in his own person," said Kegley. "He is such a gift to the church."
St. Mary's Mother of God will celebrate the announcement by ringing parish bells until 8 p.m. Wednesday night and hanging special yellow bunting on the parish churches and schools. Prayers for the Pope will be offered at Mass at 8:15 a.m. and noon; as well as a special mass for the entire school community on Friday morning.
Mater Dei Principal Steven Sciarappa said he was intrigued by the election of a pope from the Americas. "How interesting to see someone from our side of the Atlantic Ocean. Someone from Argentina will bring a different perspective of global affairs," he said. "It's also interesting that Pope Francis is an ex-college teacher, a teacher of psychology. We might see that when he puts out his writings."
Bishop David M. O'Connell of the Diocese of Trenton said, in a statement, that the new pope "has a reputation for scholarship, leadership and for a deep humility and simplicity.
'The choice of the name 'Francis' certainly indicates his respect and admiration for the beloved saint who bears that name," the bishop said.