Newly-elected Pope Francis I appears on the central balcony of St Peter's Basilica on March 13. Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected as the 266th Pontiff and will lead the world's 1.2 billion Catholics.  (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

Habemus Papam: St. Thomas Community Reacts to the Selection of Pope Francis

Dr. Don Briel, the Koch Chair in Catholic Studies and founding director of the university’s Center for Catholic Studies: The selection of Pope Francis I is clearly something of a surprise although Cardinal Bergoglio was frequently mentioned in the context of the Conclave of 2005. It seems likely that he is a compromise choice. He is a man of unusual simplicity and personal holiness and is the first pope from Latin America. So symbolically, a powerful appointment. But at the age of 76, this is not likely to position the Church for the future but to secure its current commitments. Nonetheless, such “caretaker” popes have often surprised the Church. Think for example of Leo XIII and John XXIII.

Dr. Charles Reid Jr., St. Thomas School of Law faculty member (Reid holds a law degree and license in canon law from the Catholic University of America as well as a Ph.D. in the history of medieval law from Cornell University): Cardinal Bergoglio is in many respects a natural and expected selection as Pope. He was runner-up to Pope Benedict in 2005. What is unexpected is his inspired choice of names. Pope Francis – suggestive both of Francis of Assisi and of the great Jesuit missionary St. Francis Xavier. I think by choice of names he is setting the tone of his pontificate. He will be humble like Francis of Assisi. He will show a preferential option for the poor. But he will also be an evangelizer in the mold of Francis Xavier who traveled to the far corners of the world – to Japan and China in the sixteenth century – to spread the word of Christ. I think we can expect from Pope Francis a powerful vision of faith and works.

Dr. Massimo Faggioli, St. Thomas Theology Department faculty member (Faggioli holds a doctorate from the University of Turin and specializes in contemporary Catholicism, religion and politics): The selection of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Pope Francis is interesting and surprising. He is the first non-European pope, the first Jesuit and the first with the courage to call himself Francis, after Francis of Assisi. It sets standards that are very high.

It also is interesting that eight years ago he was an alternative candidate to Pope Benedict. This time the cardinals took the road they did not take in 2005.

Cardinal Bergoglio was not on the short list of candidates being discussed widely. Some Italians were shocked at the selection; some there thought the cardinals would select a pope from Italy.

That Pope Francis was elected on the fifth ballot means that many cardinals had him in mind. The fifth ballot is early. Evidently, the press missed something that the cardinals had in mind.

Monsignor Aloysius Callaghan, rector and vice president at the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity of the University of St. Thomas: A great gift, tremendous joy, a very pleasant surprise – “Papa Francesco.”

St. Francis of Assisi – what a model for our Church in these challenging times.

In his youth, Francis began to hear the Lord speak to him and feel the stirrings of the Spirit.

One day, while praying before an ancient crucifix in a forsaken wayside chapel of San Damiano below his town of Assisi, Francis heard a voice saying, “Go Francis and repair my Church which you see is falling into ruin.”  That call, that mandate, changed Francis’ life – he offered his life as “a gift to others.”

Yesterday a “new Francis” heard a similar call, “Repair my Church,” “Rebuild my Church.”

As he stepped out on the balcony – our Holy Father humbly invited our silent prayers for him and then he said “Let us start this journey – a journey of fraternity, love, and confidence among us.

And so we begin!

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