“Que viva el Papa! Que viva!”
So cheered the faithful who filled the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles at the close of the Spanish midday Mass on March 17, the first Sunday after Pope Francis was elected to succeed Pope Benedict XVI.
“I feel very happy because it’s the first time that we have a Hispanic pope; that inspires so much confidence in me,” said Daniela Martinez, who was accompanied by her husband and their two children. “He looked like our pope from the moment I first saw him.”
A regular parishioner at the Cathedral, Martinez said she hopes Pope Francis “will be able to renew the faith of Catholics around the world, especially now that we are somewhat broken, because of so many negative things that have been happening, both in and outside of the Church.”Maria Teresa Mora, a parishioner at the Cathedral for three years, expressed similar thoughts.
“I have hope and, above all, faith, that good will come,” she said. “If he is our pope, it’s because God chose him. That’s what gives me confidence that he is someone who can and will help the world, and hopefully help convert people who have been disillusioned or are uncomfortable or doubting the Church or their faith, and encourage them to return.”
The pope being Latino is an added blessing, according to Mora, because he shares the language and culture of so many Catholics throughout the Americas. She said all of her Catholic friends and family members share her joy and enthusiasm about Pope Francis.“
He has everything that we need,” said Mora.
For 15-year-old Brenda Olmos, who attends St. Benedict Church in Montebello, the new papacy coincides with her upcoming confirmation as a full member of the Catholic Church.
“This is the faith that I want to follow in my life, no other — and I’m excited that we have a new pope,” said Olmos. She hopes Pope Francis “does a lot to reach out to youth” by encouraging them to become more actively involved in shaping the future of the Church.
Julian Pedraza, a parishioner at Our Lady of the Valley Church in Canoga Park, agrees.
“I think Pope Francis will bring a fresh start for the Church, and especially for our youth, because he seems to be a pope who has an interest in sharing his message of faith with young people,” said Pedraza.
He believes having a Hispanic pope will help more Latinos closely identify with the Church and feel fully represented.
“I believe a historic change is coming for the Latin American Church, first because it’s the first time there is a Latino pope, and because of the very nature of this pope — how he has committed his life to the communities he has served,” he said. “This is a new beginning.”
‘The Holy Spirit chooses’
At St. Francis Xavier Church in Burbank, Richard Dixon, a member of the Parish Pastoral Team, noted that his pastor, Father Richard Albarano, had noted that when the cardinals vote, the Holy Spirit chooses. “And when Pope Francis stepped on to that balcony, I sent Father Dick an email and said, ‘You were right.’
“Not only is our new pope re-building the Church as God asked the first Francis to do, but like the second Francis, Francis Xavier, he is building on the previous pope’s call for a new evangelization. And because he comes from the New World, he knows what outreach means.”
Karol Mosquera, who with her husband and two children has been part of the parish community since 2001, thought Cardinal Bergoglia chose the name Francis “because the saint is someone we can look up to for his holiness and example. I want someone who is here to help and support us, and to bring what we have lost — dignity, love, example, morals.”
Mosquera said she hoped Pope Francis can help re-build faith that many Catholics have lost. “People come to church looking for God, to church to have a better connection, and understand a little bit more about the word of God,” she said. “We are all part of the solution. We need to think about others, be sensitive to others and know that people are in need, and not just materially. We all need prayer and support.”
Carmelite of Mary Immaculate Father Benny George, associate pastor who celebrated the 10:30 Mass, said he believes Pope Francis is going to bring all together into one community, and not just the material poor.
“There is poverty of the spirit among the wealthy,” noted the priest, a native of India. “There is poverty in the side of morality; there is poverty in the side of injustice. Pope Francis spoke against inequality in Argentina, against the rule, against injustice. That was why he was there for the people and of the people.”
Father George pointed out that in the Gospels, “we find everyone represented. Jesus wanted everyone to come together in one community. He accepted everyone; he tried to elevate others. With the new pope, I see the beginning of that messianic quality — to bring goodness into the community.”