MANILA, March 16, 2013—Filipino prelates hailed the election of the first non-European pontiff in the Catholic Church.
CBCP President and Cebu Archbishop Jose S. Palma in a text message said the new pope’s choice of Francis as name during his pontificate “takes hints on the renewal of the Church where he remains committed and the care for God’s creation where St. Francis of Assisi is known for.”
Noting the pope’s Third World background, he said he looks forward to the pontiff’s “reaching to the vast majority of people who are poor.”
Jaro Auxiliary Bishop Gerardo Alminaza said Pope Francis’ “simplicity and humility” is an inspiration for him.
He said it’s seldom for a cardinal to take the bus to work, cook his meals and ask people to bless and pray for him before he blesses them.
The 53 year-old Alminaza added the pontiff’s choice of taking the name Francis after the medieval saint brings new hope for the whole Catholic Church and the world.
For Cotabato Auxiliary Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo, the election of an Argentinian to the papacy means the Holy Spirit has chosen “just what we need today.”
He said “a man with deep pastoral experience, knows the pulse of Third World church, a living witness of a Church of the Poor, and someone who chose a name which may signify the future face of the Church” is a good job description of a shepherd to 1.2 billion Catholics around the world.
He added, being “simple, humble and gentle” are important traits of the 266th Successor of Peter.
Bagaforo also said Pope Francis’ Jesuit roots could mean “the realization of the new mission frontiers, new evangelization and re-evangelization of the West.”
For his part, Isabela Bishop Martin S. Jumoad said he and the Catholic minority of the predominantly Muslim province rejoice and hopeful for a “renewed Catholic church.”
Jumoad, who heads one of the poorest prelatures in the country, said he looks forward to a papacy marked with humility, simplicity and renewed enthusiasm in the mission comparable with that of St. Francis of Assisi.
He said he remains hopeful Pope Francis would be able to bring back the former Catholics to the fold.
As far as 68-year old Lipa Archbishop Ramon C. Arguelles is concerned, his ecclesial province ordered his 108 diocesan and 39 religious priests from 53 parishes to include thanksgiving intentions for Pope Francis with a special prayer for the Holy Mother Church whom he described as “called to be missionary and Church with the poor.”
“God is a God of surprises! The only thing that came true among all the speculations about the next pope is that Francis is the first non-European pope in many centuries, though with Italian roots,” he added.
Puerto Princesa Vicar Apostolic Pedro D. Arigo, now 74 years old said, coming from the Third World and with his choice of name from St. Francis of Assisi, the pope “will lead the Church towards ‘evangelical poverty, simplicity and counter-cultural Church.’”
Balanga Bishop Ruperto C. Santos, former Rector of Rome-based Pontificio Collegio Fillipino, said the election of the pope only in two days of conclave “truly means God is guiding and assisting our Church.”
He added the choice of the name Francis only means “our pope is with us in a pilgrimage of faith in poverty and humility” for the Church.
Santos assured Pope Francis of “our filial devotion and obedience.” (Melo M. Acuna)