By Jeff Gillette
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — Wednesday’s Papal election, which saw Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio become the first pope from South America, was celebrated by Catholics around the world, including many in Western New York.
Bergoglio chose the name Francis, to honor St. Francis of Assisi — the first pope to use that name. Ruth Frawley, a Catholic from Wheatfield, sees significance in his choice.
“St. Francis was very into the environment and the poor,” Frawley said. “I think he will focus on those things, especially in South America, and his name says that.”
Several local Catholics were excited about Bergoglio’s connection to South America.
“I’m thrilled he’s from South America because it has almost half the Catholics in the world,” said Carol Stier of North Tonawanda. “He understands the Third World.”
The Rev. Peter Murray, a Jesuit from St. Michael’s Parrish in Buffalo, shared Stier’s view. Francis is also a member of the Jesuit order — the first from it to be selected pope.
“We’re happy and we hope for good things,” Murray said. Adding that Francis brings “a new perspective on how to deal with Latin America.”
Murray and Stier also felt he would be very concerned about the poor, something they believe is important.
Francis has a reputation as being a conservative Catholic and is not expected to make major reforms, a stance many local Catholics agree with.
Deacon Gary Terrana of Niagara Falls believes a conservative pope is a good thing and that Bergoglio is just that.
“He is very staunch when it comes to moral values, and a conservative,” Terrana said, adding that he thinks his conservative views will make him a pope similar to John Paul II.
The desire for a conservative such as Bergoglio was echoed by Mary Redman of North Tonawanda.
“I feel if he does what the last pope did, and not make any changes, that would be good,” Redman said. “People want women priests but he is not going to do any of that.”
Local Catholics seem genuinely excited about the election of Bergoglio, and used similar words to describe him.
“He seems humble and a people’s pope,” Redman said.
“He is very humble, a pope of the people,” Deacon Tarrana said, as he talked about how as a cardinal, Bergoglio used to ride buses with the common people.
Then he smiled and said, “I’m just excited. It’s just a great day to be Catholic.”