Hispanic Catholics in the United States reacted with jubilant optimism Wednesday to news of the worlds first Latin American pope, saying they hoped he might use his background to help mend rifts and surmount challenges that hamper their communities, the church, and the world.
On a basic level, they celebrated the fact that Pope Francis I, formerly Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, shares aspects of their backgrounds and could, it seems, be their father or grandfather.
Hes one of our own, says Rosendo Urrabazo, the Chicago-based provincial superior for the Claretian Missionaries, a Catholic order of priests and brothers. Somebody with a Hispanic last name and whose mother tongue is Spanish that touches peoples hearts.
Francis I will be endearing, too, Rev. Urrabazo says. He met the man in Buenos Aires, where then-Archbishop Bergoglio rode the bus to work every day and answered the door to the chancery himself.
Others say they hope to see such unpretentiousness in the new pope because todays challenges require a leader who relates to ordinary people. That includes Hispanic Catholics, who comprise nearly half the churchs global membership of 1.2 billion.
Consider young adults. A Gallup survey released in February found that Hispanics in America, especially those under age 30, are increasingly unlikely to identify as Catholic. But having a Latin American atop the church hierarchy could help young Hispanics feel that they belong, according to Lily Morales, who coordinates events for young adult Hispanics in the Diocese of Austin.
We really wanted someone [in the papacy] who could represent the American continents, Ms. Morales says. …