Local Jesuits were surprised, but not at all disappointed, by the election of a Jesuit, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio to the papacy.“It’s sinking in on us,” said Jesuit Father Allan Figueroa Deck, the Charles S. Casassa Chair of Catholic Social Values at Loyola Marymount University. “Our psychology is to be available to the pope — not to be the pope. We have a long tradition of avoiding being bishops, let alone being pope.” He pointed out that having a Jesuit at the helm of the church will require an adjustment in Society of Jesus members’ attitude toward the pope — adding other dimensions of being a brother to this man, a Curia “outsider” who has already charmed people with his humility and humor.“The cardinals saw a man who had a rich variety of human qualities — one is his sense of humor — and a man who had a lot of pastoral experience,” said Father Deck. “He had enough ability in Italian to be effective with the Italian community. The fact that he comes from Latin America creates the idea that the church is moving on to a new stage in history, moving the circle wider to the edge of Latin America and beyond.”Father Deck pointed out that Pope Francis, as a former Jesuit provincial superior of Argentina, is well-practiced in the Jesuit tradition of “account of conscience,” whereby Jesuits share with their superior everything going on in their life, the good and the bad. According to Father Deck, this creates an opportunity to get to human conditions at considerable depth.“That’s a good quality in a pope,” he said. “It’s extremely good,” he added, “that he’s steeped in the pastoral orientation of the Latin American church.”Father Deck noted that Pope Francis was chair of the committee writing the final document for the 2007 Latin American bishops’ month-long assembly at Aparecida, Brazil. That historic document, he said, reaffirmed the whole trajectory of renewal taking place in the Latin American church since Vatican II by emphasizing three main points: 1) A preferential option for the poor; 2) Basic ecclesial community as a fundamental form of evangelization for the church; 3) Missionary discipleship.“It’s impossible to understand the thinking of Pope Francis without thinking of the last 40 years in Latin America,” said Father Deck. He noted that the pope’s choice of the name “Francis” after St. Francis of Assisi is a symbolic image that excites Catholics as well as non-Catholics. Father Deck added that Pope Francis has a high regard for popular Catholicism as well as how the Holy Spirit is moving in the lives of the baptized.“What we’re going to see is the importance this pope gives to how the Holy Spirit is working in the lives of ordinary people.”Dr. Cecilia González-Andrieu, assistant professor of Theological Studies at LMU, joined in the invitation of church leaders to pray for the new pope, and was delighted with his choice of name.“I think of John August Swanson's beautiful images of St. Francis of Assisi and how much Francis loved everything about the world, and how he is a symbol across cultures, races and even religions — that we were a community of ‘all,’” she said.“Francis had a very cosmic vision of God's entire creation as interconnected. In a world that needs so much healing the symbol of Francis of Assisi is an amazing and unifying image.”In interviews within minutes of the pope’s election, González-Andrieu was among the first to suggest that Pope Francis could have also named himself after Francis Xavier, “the very great Spanish Jesuit, who likely named himself after the other Francis. Of course, Francisco Xavier was one of the greatest evangelizers in history, taking the Gospel literally to the very ends of the earth. That is also part of truly loving the world.”Either way, she said, “great lover of the planet or great lover of the Gospel, these two requirements of every Catholic are inextricably intertwined and I hope to see our new Pope Francisco I be a beacon of both.”Jesuit Father Ron Schmidt, a documentary filmmaker with an office at Blessed Sacrament Church in Hollywood (one of three parishes in the Los Angeles Archdiocese administered by the Jesuits, in addition to Dolores Mission in Boyle Heights and Our Lady of Sorrows in Santa Barbara), was struck by the new pope’s demeanor as he encountered the cheering throng in St. Peter’s Square.“When he came out [on the loggia], he had a certain humility — yet with a twinkle in his eye, very human,” said Father Schmidt. “He will bring a very deep Ignatian spirituality as Pope, caring about people’s individual spiritual lives and bringing the Jesuit concerns of social justice and a preferential option for the poor.”The California Province of the Society of Jesus extended its “warmest welcome to Pope Francis."The choice of Cardinal Bergoglio, first Pope from the new world and from Latin America, gives not only Catholics, but all those who seek God, hope in the way the Spirit of God is at work," said Jesuit Father Michael Weiler, provincial of the California Province. "The Holy Father's taking of the name Francis and his personal commitment to serve the poor remind us all of the simple and loving demand of Jesus — to love and be of service to those considered least among us.The Jesuit Superior General, Father Adolfo Nicolás, offered “thanks to God for the election of our new Pope, which opens for the Church a path full of hope.“From the very first moment in which he appeared before the people of God, he gave visible witness to his simplicity, his humility, his pastoral experience and his spiritual depth,” said Father Nicolás."The distinguishing mark of our Society is that it is a companionship bound to the Roman Pontiff by a special bond of love and service. Thus, we share the joy of the whole Church, and at the same time, wish to express our renewed availability to be sent into the vineyard of the Lord, according to the spirit of our special vow of obedience, that so distinctively unites us with the Holy Father.”Doris Benavides and Mike Nelson contributed to this story.{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2013/0322/popejesuit/{/gallery}