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Election of new pope breaks European tradition

Courtesy of MCT

The election of an Argentine pope was a break from tradition in the Roman Catholic Church that some in Columbus said might inspire a time of renewal for the religion.

The white smoke that rose from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel not only symbolized the decision of a new holy leader of the Catholic Church but a historic change. Wednesday was the first time in more than 1,200 years that the Catholic Church chose a pope of non-European decent, and it marked the first selection of a Jesuit to lead the church. 

The 76-year-old Argentine archbishop, Jorge Mario Bergoglio will be called Francis. He is the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. Although Francis’ parents were from Italy, he was born and raised in Argentina after his parents immigrated to the country.

“The fact that they are picking a Latin American cardinal is very significant,” said Lilia Fernandez, an associate professor in the Department of History at Ohio State. “I think it signals one’s willingness and interest in paying attention to other Catholics in the world and being open to leadership outside of Europe.”

Frederick F. Campbell, Bishop of Columbus said in a statement from The Catholic Diocese of Columbus, that he “joins with all Catholics worldwide in joyful celebration at the election of … His Holiness Pope Francis.”

Campbell said he believes Francis will motivate Catholics through living by example.

“We are confident his leadership and faith will provide us, as his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, before him, with a deeper understanding of Christ’s eternal presence and serve as an example and constant reminder for us to follow in the Lord’s footsteps,” Campbell said.

Francis comes from the Jesuit order, also known as the Society of Jesus, which is well known for advocating for the poor and working on economic issues. The new pontiff also holds traditional views by opposing abortion, gay marriage and the ordination of women.

“He’s a very interesting pope because although he is huge advocate for the poor and those kinds of issues, he is also very conservative on issues of contraception, abortion and same-sex marriage,” Fernandez said.

Fernandez said the new pope will face numerous challenges.

“A lot of Latin Americans and people in the United States are converting to all kinds of protestant religions because those religions have been doing a lot of missionary work,” Fernandez said. “I think part of the reason why they chose a pope from Latin America is to try to bring Latin Americans especially closer to the church … because Latin Americans are one of the largest segments … of Catholicism.”

Parker Ramey, a fourth-year in city and regional planning, said he is pleased with the decision of the new pope and appreciates Francis’ humility.

“He is a step in a better direction compared to previous popes because he reaches out to the poor; he refused to live in a mansion, and he took public transportation rather than a car,” Ramey said. “He seems like a really humble guy.”

Fernandez said it will be interesting to see how he leads the Catholic Church and inspires others to join.

“Hopefully he will inspire and motivate Catholics,” Fernandez said.  

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