by Most Rev. Paul G. Bootkoski, Bishop of the Diocese of Metuchen
It is with a sense of gratitude and excitement that I join all Catholics in our diocese and around the world in proclaiming the Good News: “Habemus papem! We have a pope!”
Today, I am most grateful to Jorge Mario Bergoglio, former cardinal of Argentina, who is now known to the world as Pope Francis, for accepting the Lord’s divine call to lead the universal church. History was made today as the first Pope Francis is not only the first South American pope, but the first pope elected outside Europe in over 1,000 years.
Our new Holy Father is known for his humility, simple lifestyle and commitment to social justice, much like the patron saint he named himself after – St. Francis of Assisi of Italy. I am confident that he will prove to be a worthy successor to Peter, our first pope, and to our most recent pope, Benedict XVI, who is to be admired for his leadership of the past eight years.
I was very touched today as I watched our new pope step out onto the balcony and wave to the faithful in those first moments…and the way people reacted when he first smiled at them. I was particularly moved by his gesture of asking for the blessing of the people who were gathered in St. Peter’s Square. I hope it will always be part of his pontificate to be open to the presence of God…to allow God’s spirit to speak to him not only through prayer, sacramental signs and scripture, but also to allow His spirit to speak to him through God’s people.
I am grateful, too, to the Cardinal Electors for their important role in prayerfully contemplating and discerning the will of God, not of man, as they worked together to select our new leader of 1.2 billion Catholics around the world, including more than 650,000 faithful here in the Diocese of Metuchen.
I ask all the faithful of the diocese to join with me in deep and committed prayer for Pope Francis that he is able to accept and meet all challenges he encounters throughout his papacy with grace, prayer and, above all, an abiding trust in the Lord.