L.A. Catholics hope Pope Francis will further address abuse
As L.A.-area Catholics praised the selection of Pope Francis, many said they hoped the new pontiff would further address the sex abuse scandal that has rocked the church.
"He's got a lot of things to do right now," said Leo Medina, 65, who sat on a bench in Lynwood's Plaza Mexico on Wednesday afternoon.
Medina said he believes the abuse allegations are the most important issue facing the church.
"It's really damaging to the church," he said. "I think a lot of people changed their religion because of this."
"It's not really easy to fix this," he continued. "The damage is already done."
Francis, 76, succeeds Benedict XVI as leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics. Benedict stunned the church when he stepped down last month, becoming the first pontiff to do so in six centuries.
Francis is the first pontiff from the Americas and the first non-European pope selected in more than a millennium.
The Catholic Church has been roiled in recent years by allegations of clergy abuse in the United States, Ireland and England dating back decades. In Los Angeles, recently released court files offered evidence that some church officials made a concerted effort to shield abusers from police.
Last month, in a move unprecedented in the American Catholic Church, Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez relieved his predecessor, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, of all public duties over Mahony's mishandling of clergy sex abuse of children decades ago.
Auxiliary Bishop Thomas J. Curry, who worked with Mahony, also resigned his post as a regional bishop in Santa Barbara.
When the white smoke bellowed out of the Sistine Chapel on Wednesday, lawyers for the Los Angeles archdiocese were meeting with a judge about an upcoming sexual abuse trial.
The conference in a Westlake courthouse came a day after the archdiocese announced it would pay $10 million to settle four other lawsuits.
Maria Ramirez, 65, attended a noon mass at St. Emydius Catholic Church in Lynwood. She said her faith had not been shaken by the allegations, but hopes Francis “will be able to protect more children and also protect all vulnerable people.”
“We are in a very difficult situation, especially with everything that has happened in the church with the children," she said in Spanish. "I’ve been very saddened by this.”
Teresa Gonzalez, 62, said she too still saw strong believers, but called the selection of a new pope "very important to the church."
"“Especially with the abuse that’s happened," she said. "Much of the faith of Catholic people is going down.”
In Little Saigon, advertising manager Hung Nguyen said he was interested to see what steps Francis might take.
"What concerns me is if he will follow the direction of the previous pope — what kind of changes he will enact in the future when it comes to internal corruption and the deep sexual abuse," Nguyen said. "I care about this because look at the dwindling numbers of Catholics in Europe, look at the poverty and social issues in Latin America. We need guidance."
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— Christine Mai-Duc, Harriet Ryan, Anh Do and Kate Mather