CHARLESTON — Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone expressed great pleasure about the election of Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio to pope during a press conference held March 13.
The bishop spoke to local media as he stood in front of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist where bunting in the papal colors of yellow and white was being hanged. He described the election of Cardinal Bergoglio as an “interesting long shot” saying it was a historic decision because the pope elect is also a member of the Society of Jesus. He said the Jesuit spirituality of St. Ignatius could have a big effect on the church but only time would tell.
“He’s a fine man, a good man,” the bishop told reporters. “I think he’ll be good for the Church.”
Cardinal Bergoglio, 76, was chosen after the fifth ballot cast by the 115 cardinals to succeed Pope Benedict XVI, who resigned Feb. 28 because of his “advanced age” of 85. The choice of a pope from Buenos Aires, Argentina, is also a very practical response to the reality of the Church, Bishop Guglielmone said. There are an estimated 1.2 billion Catholics in the world. In Latin America, 72 percent of the estimated 425,490,000 population identified itself as Catholic in 2010, according to a Pew survey. The South Carolina bishop hopes to see the new pope address the issue of evangelization and thinks the fact that the cardinals elected someone from Latin America is an indication of such.
“That’s a sign of the whole issue of evangelization, renewal and deepening of spirituality,” Bishop Guglielmone said.
A Latin American pope, let alone a new pope, will also be a cause for rejoicing in the Diocese of Charleston which has a burgeoning Hispanic ministry and Masses in Spanish at approximately 40 percent of its 116 parishes and missions.
“I can’t wait to be at my first Spanish Mass in the diocese,” the bishop said. “I think there will be great jubilation and I think they’re just going to be energized. It’s going to affect Latinos in our diocese very, very much.”
He described the pope elect as a strong person who will bring solid management to the Church.
“I think he is going to help us overcome some of the difficulties we’ve seen in the last few years,” Bishop Guglielmone said. “That’s my hope and I think that’s certainly the prayer of so many people. We’d like to see the Church strengthened because we have so much to offer, but we’ve had some rough times.”
It was not certain at the time after whom Pope Francis I took his name but reporters asked if it may be a choice that will be telling of his papacy.
“Just watching on television people are assuming he took the name after St. Francis of Assisi but people forget there is another Francis in the Church, St. Francis Xavier who was a Jesuit missionary,” Bishop Guglielmone said. “We’ll have to wait and see who his patron is.”
Though he’s never met him, Bishop Guglielmone said the pope elect has to be a “good guy.”
“He’s an Argentinian but of course he’s of Italian heritage and we can’t forget that, that’s something that’s kind of important for me,” Bishop Guglielmone joked.