Pope Francis hailed, urged to strive toward peace
March 15, 2013, 12:36 am TWN
BUENOS AIRES/WASHINGTON -- World leaders and Catholics hailed the election of Jorge Bergoglio from Argentina as the first Latin American pope on Wednesday, urging him to work for religious reconciliation and peace.
U.S. President Barack Obama and Argentine leader Cristina Kirchner Fernandez led congratulations from across the Americas, where Roman Catholics rejoiced that one of their own will lead the church's 1.2-billion-strong flock.
In Buenos Aires, the faithful attending mass at the capital's main cathedral on the historic Plaza de Mayo erupted in cheers and gave a standing ovation upon learning from Vatican City of the 76-year-old's elevation.
"As the first pope from the Americas, his selection... speaks to the strength and vitality of a region that is increasingly shaping our world," Obama said in a statement, hailing Pope Francis as a "champion of the poor."
"Just as I appreciated our work with Pope Benedict XVI, I look forward to working with His Holiness to advance peace, security and dignity for our fellow human beings, regardless of their faith," he said.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, a Catholic who will lead the U.S. delegation to the new pope's inauguration mass on Tuesday, said he would extend his prayers as the pontiff "takes on this holy responsibility".
"I am happy to have the chance to personally relay my well wishes, and those of the American people, when I travel to Rome," Biden said.
Fernandez, who is Catholic but does not have a warm personal relationship with the new pontiff, wished the 76-year-old Jesuit a "fruitful pastoral mission."
She noted that he had "tremendous responsibility on his shoulders, seeking justice, equality, brotherhood, and peace among mankind."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the "hopes" of "millions of believers in Germany and the world," now rest "with the new pope," while EU President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso urged the pontiff to try to bring the "world's people and religions closer together."
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said the United Nations and the Roman Catholic Church shared the "common goals" of promoting peace, social justice and human rights, and the eradication of poverty and hunger.
"We also share the conviction that we can only resolve the interconnected challenges of today's world through dialogue," Ban said.
French President Francois Hollande said Paris looked forward to pursuing a "confident dialogue" with the Holy See.
In Latin America, the leaders of Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico joined the clergy in hailing Bergoglio, who was elected after five rounds of voting in the Vatican — one more than when predecessor Benedict XVI was chosen in 2005.
"The faithful eagerly await the arrival of Pope Francis to Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day in July," said Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, citing her nation as having "the greatest number of Catholics in the world."
Cardinal Odilo Scherer, the archbishop of Sao Paulo had been considered a contender for the papacy.