I want to extend my sincere congratulations to all our Catholic readers on the election of Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio to be Pope. May the Papacy of Francis I be a blessing to all and bring strength to the Catholic Church.
As a Jew, the Pope has long played a role in my life as well. I think many Jews look to the Pope as a moral leader, even if not their own. John Paul II was a personal hero of mine, as he was to so many Catholics, and an inspiration to those like me who detested the Soviet dominion over Eastern Europe.
I’ve heard much commentary so far about how Bergoglio is from Latin America and is a champion of the poor. But from what I understand, these two qualities of his do not at all add up to something like liberation theology.
You can find a great biography of Bergoglio written by the Catholic News Service, which notes he has “has been outspoken against abortion and same-sex marriages.” And National Review, which I guess is still sort of a Catholic-leaning conservative outlet, gives him the thumbs up.
One of my favorite memories is of traveling in Poland and staying at the apartment of a stranger who had swept a sleepy, young, lone traveler she’d never seen before off the train and taken him to her apartment. She was a middle aged woman who lived with her father, and neither could speak English.
As I sat with the elderly gentleman trying to communicate, I pointed out a photograph of John Paul II on the table next to him. Finally, we had struck on something we both understood. He grabbed the photo and clasped it to his chest, exclaiming, nearly with tears in his eyes, “Papa! Papa!”
I know the people of Argentina are experiencing similar joy tonight. May Francis I have many healthy years as Pope ahead of him.