Local Catholics gave their perspectives to the selection of a new Pope.

Locals react to new Pope

By Carmen Bourlon


Catholics across the world welcomed Pope Francis to the papacy Wednesday.

Francis is a multitude of firsts – the first pope from the Americas, the first Jesuit, and the first to take the name Francis. He is also the first non-European pope in hundreds of years.

The 76-year-old Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, said to have finished second when Pope Benedict XVI was elected in 2005, was chosen on just the fifth ballot to replace the first pontiff to resign in 600 years. In the past century, only Benedict, John Paul I in 1978 and Pius XII in 1939 were faster.

Francis' election elated Latin Americans, who number 40 percent of the world's Catholics but have long been underrepresented in the church leadership.

Clorisa Brown, a Shawnee resident and member of St. Benedict Catholic Church, said she had been watching the conclave since the cardinals began arriving at the Vatican. Additionally, she said she is very excited with the decision made with Francis.

“He seems like a really down-to-Earth pope,” Brown said.

She said she wasn’t concerned with the pope’s age – 76.

“I’m happy that he’s a conservative pope,” Brown said. “I’m happy he’s a Jesuit.”

She was also pleased with the name he chose.

“The fact that he chose Francis is awesome,” Brown said. “He didn’t chose that name to be different or out there.”

“We need someone who can bring us together,” she added.

Tim Barrick, another St. Benedict parishioner, was also pleased with the quick decision.

“I was surprised that it happened in just two days,” Barrick said.

He added that he is pleased with the selection of a pope from the Americas.

“Based on the number of Catholics in this part of the world, I think it was time,” Barrick said. “I think it’ll be a good thing for Catholics around the world.”

Barrick was also impressed with the apparent humbleness of the new pope, and his energy.

“He kind of has that humble look about him, but still has personality,” he said. “He seemed like he had more energy in his eyes.”

Oklahoma City's Roman Catholic archbishop said Wednesday that the selection of a pope from the New World was a "wonderful surprise" but that he didn't know what agenda the new pontiff would take to the Vatican.

"What he will be for all of us is a sign of unity and the living icon of the person of Jesus Christ," Archbishop Paul S. Coakley said.

"His responsibilities are to guide the church in the ways of holiness."

In a statement, Coakley said the 115 cardinals "delivered a wonderful surprise to the world by choosing a pope from Latin America, a part of the world where the Catholic Church is strong and committed to the New Evangelization."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.