Portage County priests react with joy to election of Pope Francis

Record-Courier Staff Report Published:

Portage County Catholic priests reacted with joy and elation to the election of Pope Francis, formerly Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina.

"I think he's going to emphasize social justice and also spirituality and holiness.

I'm very elated with the appointment," said the Rev. David Misbrener, pastor of St. Peter of the Fields Parish.

The Rev. Thomas Acker, administrator of St. Joseph Parish in Randolph was exceedingly pleased with the selection of a Jesuit as pope.

"I'm very, very pleased because he's a Jesuit," said Acker, a fellow Jesuit.

Jesuits are members of the Society of Jesus, which was founded by St. Ignatius Loyala. The Jesuits are noted for their scholarship and their history of missionary work, taking Catholicism to India, Japan, China, and South America.

They are also noted for as an order of teachers.

Misbrener and Acker also found significance in that the first Latin American and the first Jesuit to be named pontiff chose to be called Francis.

The name pays tribute to St. Francis of Assisi, who founded the Franciscan Order and espoused caring for the poor.

Read Alliance-area Catholics' reactions

Before that was made clear by the Vatican, the local pastors thought the choice also could honor St. Francis Xavier, one of the first Jesuits, and who is the patron of missionaries.

Misbrener said he thought the name was a nod to both great Catholic men.

"It could be a number of things," he said. "If he takes the name from St. Francis of Assisi, we know that when he prayed, he saw a vision of the Lord telling him, 'Rebuild my church, which is falling into ruin.' "

Misbrener said the new pope is known for his humility, electing to live in a simple apartment rather than a palatial estate when he served as a bishop. When Argentinians talked about traveling to Rome for the conclave, he urged them to give the money to the poor instead. And in 2001, he gained attention when he washed and kissed the feet of 12 AIDS patients.

Acker said he believes the choice of pope is a continuation of the opportunity for change started when Benedict XVI resigned.

"That very conservative pope made a very non-conservative move" Acker said about the resignation. "I think the cardinals said, 'Let's continue this.' The church is changing. You know 40 percent of Catholics are in the southern sector" of South America.

Acker also was pleased that the new pope is a scientist. Acker has a doctorate in biology and the new Pope Francis is a chemist.

"By his nature he's going to be experimental," Acker said. "He's going to have to be careful, of course. But I think he'll have that thing of 'Let's try something.'"

Like others, Acker said there is significance into the name chosen by the new pope. He said his interpretation is that Francis will stand for both saints by that name.

The new pope is rumored to have been the runner-up to Pope Benedict when he was elected in 2005, but the Rev. John Madden, pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Ravenna, said the world will never really know because the ballots are burned after the election.

"I'm still in shock," he said.

The Rev. Steve Agostino, pastoral administrator at the Kent State University Parish Newman Center, said he was very excited by the choice of Bergoglio.

"I just thought this was a good indication that the church is moving forward and really focusing on the need for change," Agostino said. "I think it (represents) the idea of uniting Catholics throughout the world and reminding people the church isn't just in Italy or Europe."

Agostino said he thought Wednesday's announcement was viewed with more excitement by the public than previous elections because it did not follow a death.

"We're not coming out of the funeral of a pope, so there's none of that sadness attached to the election," he said. "So that adds to the joy of the occasion."

The Rev. James M. Daprile, pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Aurora, said he was delighted by the choice.

"The manner of his lifestyle is very attractive to me," Daprile said. "He lived in a simple one-room apartment. He cooked his own meals and took public transportation. He is a humble and simple man."

Bishop George Murry of the Diocense of Youngstown said the "Catholic community of the Diocese of Youngstown rejoices" in the Pope's election.

Staff writers Diane Smith, Mike Sever, Thomas Gallick and Mike Lesko contributed to this story.

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