Manatee reactions vary at election of 76-year-old Argentine as pope

vmannix@bradenton.comMarch 14, 2013 

MANATEE -- Some had hoped he would be a younger man.

Others were impressed he is a Jesuit.

Also that he is a non-European, too.

Wednesday's election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio, a 76-year-old Argentine prelate as the 266th pope, generated varying reaction from Catholics and non-Catholics around the community.

People were on both sides of the age issue for Pope Francis I.

"He's too old," Susan Lynch said.

"He's a young guy compared to me," said Jack Egan, 80.

"I was hoping for someone younger," Bill Krause said.

Sister Mary Leahy, a retired nun with the Sisters of Providence, didn't make much of the age issue at all.

Rather she focused on his humble South American origins.

"He brings a whole new culture into the church, so it's absolutely unknown to us what could lie ahead," she said. "It's part of a new beginning, a new journey and that's part of the change."

Mike Kennedy, born and educated Catholic and now Methodist, agreed the new pope's heritage is a significant as the 266th pontiff.

"It will bring a perspective to the papacy that hasn't been there before," said the president and chief executive officer at Suncoast Community Capital. "Even though I'm no longer Catholic, it's enormously important and impactful on the universal church."

Which was the tone of the reaction from the Diocese of Venice, which requested its parishes with the capability to ring bells at 6 p.m. Wednesday in honor the newly elected pope.

Each parish will also offer a Mass Thursday morning for the intention of the Holy Father.

"For Latin Americans it is a moment of pride," said diocesan communications director Billy Atwell. "The selection of the pope should be viewed as universal. He is everybody's pope, including people from all backgrounds and ethnic groups. But this definitely is a moment of pride specifically for the Latin American community."

That the new pope is Jesuit was significant for some.

"I like it," Anthony Cucci said. "The church is very set in its ways, so he might be a breath of fresh air, be more open to change."

"They're the intellectuals of the church," Egan said. "I hope he's more liberal because the church has got to catch up with the times."

Linda Hodson hopes so, particularly after the reign of Benedict XVI as leader of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics.

"Maybe he'll be a good listener and bring us back together instead of dividing us," she said. "He should listen to the nuns and women in general. We have a lot to say."

Will Robinson agreed emphatically on that last point.

While the Bradenton attorney was taken by the new pope's humility and devotion to the poor, he said the pope must address the abuse scandals and the church must be more inclusive of women.

"Women should have more of an increased defined role in the church, whether it's as priests or deacons ... " Robinson said. "As it is, they've excluded half the people who belong to the church. Women need to have a stronger voice and role in our church and, hopefully, that will happen in our lifetime."

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7055. Twitter: @vinmannix

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