Wednesday’s historic events in Rome resonated around the world and in the Kootenays.
With the election of Argentine cardinal Jorge Bergoglio as the 266th Pontiff, the conclave of cardinals from around the world chose the first pope from the Western Hemisphere, the first Jesuit to be pope, and the first to choose the name Francis.
Bishop John Corriveau of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Nelson, which encompasses the East and West Kootenays and the south Okanagan, said there is great significant in these three points.
“As soon as they came out and announced the name of the new pope, I was very excited,” said Bishop Corriveau. “I think there are a lot of symbolic things in (Wednesday’s) announcement that have great importance and show wonderful things for the future.
“It’s significant that he’s from Argentina, it’s significant that he’s a Jesuit, and it’s significant that he chose the name Francis.”
The Bishop said that in essence, the Catholic church has chosen a “pastoral” pope, with a special emphasis on evangelizing, on a commitment to the poor, and on a vision of Church unity.
“In Latin America we have what we call a mature church,” Bishop Corriveau said. “It’s been there for 500 years and developed its own character. It’s fully Catholic but it’s got a very particular South American character.
“There are many aspects you could talk about here, but one aspect I think is of exceptional importance for the Latin American church is that it makes a special effort to be a populist church inserted among the people and particularly among the poor.”
The Bishop said that Pope Francis was strong on simplicity of life and contact with the ordinary people. “That flows into the second point, that he’s a Jesuit,” he said.
“It’s important to see what the Jesuits stand for. They were particularly attached to the universal vision of the church, and putting themselves at the disposition of that universal vision. In a very particular way, they were strong evangelizers.”
Corriveau added that the name Francis could refer to both St. Francis of Assisi and Francis Xavier, one of the great visionaries of the early visionary movement.
“I think that’s very strong in (Francis’s) Jesuit tradition — strong obedience to the Church, obedience to that wider vision of Church, and a certain backbone. The Jesuits were regarded as being tough.
“I got a feeling that will serve well in his reorganization of the Vatican curia and the like. “
The choice of the name Francis has tremendous significance, Corriveau said. “Francis’s well-known love of animals is important, but only of tertiary importance. In a special way, Francis embraced brotherhood/sisterhood with the poor. They were the privileged recipients of his attitudes. I think Cardinal Bergoglio taking the name Francis is emphasizing that. I think evangelizing through the poor is going to become a thrust of his ministry, and I’m absolutely fascinated to see how that’s going to play out in his life.”
Corriveau believes the conclave made a deliberate choice of a pope with this particular vision.
“Pope Benedict was a teacher. He was chosen at that time because the church felt they needed that strong leadership of teaching. But this time they obviously chose a very intelligent man, a very well-prepared man, but his strong preparation is pastoral.
“This wasn’t a compromise candidate, this was a choice. He was elected with a two-thirds majority on the third ballot by a worldwide community. He represents a strong consensus within the church.”
As to the Catholic people of the Diocese, which includes Cranbrook and Kimberley, Corriveau thinks they’ll feel the same as him.
“As I know Catholics and the people of the Kootenays and the Okanagan, I think they’ll be delighted with the choice of the new pope.
“I was absolutely delighted; when those curtains parted it was a pleasant surprise. He defied all of the experts and the pundits, and they chose this simple pastoral man as a pope.”