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Category: Religion

New pope: Latinos overjoyed with selection of Argentine

Midday Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels

When the Rev. Marco Ortiz saw the name of the new pope flash across the TV, he whispered to himself: "Wow."

The selection of Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina to lead the Roman Catholic Church, Ortiz realized, ushered in an era of firsts.

He is the first pope from the Americas. And he is the first pope who shares the mother tongue of Latin Americans — Pope John Paul II spoke fluent Spanish, but with the accent of someone who was not a native speaker, and Benedict spoke it more haltingly.

FULL COVERAGE: Election of a pope

"This is history," said Ortiz, who is Mexican and whose congregants at Divine Saviour Catholic Church in Cypress Park mostly speak Spanish. "I think the impact will be enormous, enormous."

Across Southern California on Wednesday, many Catholics rejoiced that the background of the church’s new leader resembled theirs more closely than those of his European predecessors.

The selection of Bergoglio marked a moment of jubilation at an otherwise precarious time for America’s largest archdiocese, which has been roiled by new allegations that church leaders plotted to hide child abuse by priests from police.

PHOTOS: A new pope is chosen

About 70% of the Catholic population in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles is Latino, and it’s not uncommon in Spanish-speaking neighborhoods to see signs proclaiming “Este hogar es catolico” or “This home is Catholic.”

“I never thought this would happen,” said Eduardo Ahamad, 56, who runs the Rincon Argentino grocery store in Glendale. He is of Mexican and Argentinian descent and had expected the new pope to come from where so many others had: Italy.

“I was ready to run outside with my flag,” he said. “I can only imagine that Argentinians are celebrating.”

INTERACTIVE: Choosing a new pope

At a Spanish-language Mass at St. Emydius in Lynwood, parishioners applauded when the new pope emerged. But the clapping got much louder when they learned their new spiritual leader hailed from Argentina.

“It’s possible that he will understand other Latinos better,” Maria Ramirez, 65, said afterward in Spanish. “As the pope, he is the pope to the whole world, but I’m very pleased that he’s from Latin America.”

Another churchgoer, Teresa Gonzalez, 62, said she hoped the new pope would mark a new chapter for the church after “the abuse that’s happened.”

“Much of the faith of Catholic people is going down,” Gonzalez said.

Latin America has the largest share of the world's 1.2-billion Catholics, which some analysts said was likely a key factor in the selection of Bergoglio, who chose the papal name Francis.

Father Allan Figueroa Deck, a Latin American specialist at Loyola Marymount University, said Francis is poised serve as a bridge between Europe and Latin America, just as his native country of Argentina has.

“It’s a very important development and it’s been a long time coming,” Deck said. “The seeds of Christianity that was planted 500 years ago in the Americas are finally manifesting themselves in the leadership of the church at the highest level.”

Francis, 76, has been applauded for modernizing an Argentine church that had been among the most conservative in Latin America. But he is no liberal theologian, denouncing gay marriage and adoptions by gay couples.

He is also known for his outreach to the poor and his austerity — he spurned the ornate church mansion in Buenos Aires for a spartan downtown room where he cooks his own meals. He also rides the bus. Those qualities resonated with Carlos Madrid, 60, who had been hoping for a pontiff from Africa.

“He's lived among poverty, close to the poor,” Madrid said as he cut a man’s hair in his Huntington Park barbershop. “He knows the needs we have in this continent. The rich don't understand the life of the poor as well.”

Around noon in Los Angeles, white smoke billowed out of the Sistine Chapel in Rome, signifying the selection of the new pontiff. At the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels downtown, bells clanged and workers hurried to adorn the main entrance with yellow and white bunting. Archbishop Jose Gomez held a special Mass at 12:10.

“So my brothers and sisters, habemus papam,” he said.

On a sidewalk in Huntington Park, Sister Guadalupe Pablo, 32, saw the pope’s origins and choice of name as reasons to rejoice. The nun, who’s visiting from Mexico, was clad in brown vestments and selling rosaries and prayer cards for her order.

“We've never had a pope from Latin America, and beside that, our founder was St. Francisco de Assissi,” Pablo said, her pride evident. “Our new Holy Father is Pope Francisco I. We've never had a pope named Francisco.”

St. Francis of Assissi identified so strongly with the poor that he was known as “the Poverello,” or little poor man. “To our founder, all were his brothers,” Pablo said. “That the pope chose to identify with him means something beautiful."

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Photo: Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez celebrates Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels after the selection of an Argentine cardinal to become the Roman Catholic Church's pope. Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina is now Pope Francis. Credit: Kevork Djanszian / Getty Images

Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez celebrates the midday Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in recognition of the historic selection of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina as pope on March 13, 2013 in LosAngeles, California. Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected as the 266th pontiff, the first non-European leader of the church in more than 1,000 years, will lead the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

New pope could revitalize Catholic Church, L.A. parishioners say

Worshipers at a Mass held at the Cathedral of our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles said they were were uplifted by the idea that Pope Francis could bring widespread change to the church.

“The popes have all been from Europe, now this may be what is required, someone from the Americas who has a different perception on how life is to be lived and what it means to be Catholic,” said Marcus Anderson, 59, of West Los Angeles.

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio 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.

PHOTOS: A new pope is chosen

Anderson, who runs an outreach ministry for homeless, said he would like to see the church allow priests to be married and believes that such a change could curb sexual abuse.

Although many couldn’t list specific expectations for Francis, a common theme expressed was hope for revitalized leadership and inspiration.

Elizabeth Rodriguez, 44, said she felt as if the church had a new-found opportunity to be injected with life and energy. “We need somebody with new blood to guide the church,” she said, noting former Pope Benedict XVI’s age. “We need somebody who really can take care of us.”

FULL COVERAGE: The papal conclave

A Los Angeles resident who manages a fabric store, Rodriguez said she hoped Francis would become more involved in evangelism.

For Danny Gutierrez, Francis’ ethnic background was particularly exciting. The 30-year-old Mexican American resident of La Puente brought his wife and 18-day-old daughter to the Mass. He said he hoped Francis made an effort to reach out to Hispanic and Latin people around the world. 

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L.A. Latinos praise Spanish-speaking, Latin American pope

In Orange, parishioners pray Pope Francis has 'a strong spirit'

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New Pope: Locals approve name choice after St. Francis of Assisi

Standing on a sidewalk on Pacific Boulevard in Huntington Park selling rosaries, prayer cards and other religious items for her order, Sister Guadalupe Pablo celebrated the new pope -- and his chosen name.

Soft-spoken and petite in her brown vestments, the 32-year-old explained her pride.

"We've never had a pope from Latin America, and beside that, our founder was St. Francisco de Assisi," she said. "Our new Holy Father is Pope Francisco I. We've never had a pope named Francisco. That made us feel so happy."

Full coverage: Election of a pope

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio 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.

She said Bergoglio's choice to be called Pope Francis -- or Francisco as he's known in Spanish -- was meaningful because her order's founder had identified so strongly with the poor, just like the new pope's order, the Jesuits.

"To our founder, all were his brothers," she said. "That the pope chose to identify with him means something beautiful."

PHOTOS: A new pope is chosen

Pablo said she's been in Los Angeles four months, living under the generosity of a woman along with other nuns while their convent in Mexico state is constructed.

She said that the pope was Argentine and not Mexican did not matter.

The Rev. Marco Ortiz of Divine Saviour Catholic Church in Cypress Park watched as the new name was announced: "OK, whoa," he said, saying the name choice was quite significant. 

INTERACTIVE: Choosing a new pope

"The name lets us see the direction of the pope," Ortiz said. "And St. Francis of Assisi came to renew the church, to rebuild the church." 

Picking the name is a sign that Bergoglio has the same bold vision, Ortiz said.

Aside from a desire to live a life free of wealth, St. Francis was also known for being "very inclusive," Ortiz said.

"A lot of gay people feel connected to him because of his sensitivity," he said. "It's the same if he's from one Latin American country or another. The emotion is the same."

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In Orange, parishioners pray Pope Francis has 'a strong spirit'

At a noontime Mass at Holy Family Cathedral in Orange, the priest told parishioners the selection of Pope Francis provided a moment of jubilation for the church during an otherwise precarious time.

"This is why we are rejoicing," Father Thai Trinh said in his homily before the few dozen congregants. "Our Lord is at work."

Trinh then asked the congregation to pray for the new pontiff so that he might serve "with great humility, great love and also with great courage as he guides the church through the stormy waters of our time."

PHOTOS: A new pope is chosen

The rector of the cathedral, Msgr. Doug Cook, said the church now has an opportunity to embrace more tightly its far-flung but growing and devout Spanish-speaking followers.

"It's a way of connecting with a very vibrant, unique part of the Catholic world,” he said, referring to Francis’ Argentine roots.

"He seems young, he seems personable -- has a heart that wants to connect with people," Cook said.

FULL COVERAGE: The papal conclave

Parishioner Arturo Ramirez, 50, said the selection was a sign that the church was reaching out to its worldwide followers, especially the Latin communities.
Continue reading »

Local Argentines on new pope: 'I never thought this would happen'

As word spread that Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina had been named the next pope, local Argentines celebrated the news.

Eduardo Ahamad, owner of Rincon Argentino grocery store in Glendale, said: "I was ready to run outside with my flag. I can only imagine that Argentinians are celebrating."

Ahamad, who is part Mexican and Argentine, said the selection is a break from the usual popes that have been selected in past centuries.

Full coverage: Election of a pope

"We think it's going to be an Italian even an American, but not this," Ahamad said. "It's something new, different. I never thought this would happen."

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.

He was chosen after five rounds of voting over two days in the Sistine Chapel.

PHOTOS: Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio elected pope

In Lynwood, 38-year-old Isiero Carrillo, a Catholic and owner of El Che, an Argentine meat market, said he was watching Spanish-language news when he heard the announcement.  

"I couldn't believe it," he said. "For a moment I thought this wasn't really happening. It's the first time this has happened to us," he added. "What a blessing."

He said the majority of his customers were happy to hear of the news too. Some commented about the historic significance of having the first pope from Latin America. Others were discussing the pope's role in addressing the issues facing the Catholic Church. 

INTERACTIVE: Choosing a new pope

Carrillo hopes the best for the new pope and said that while today was a historic day for Latinos, it should be a joyful day for all Catholics. 

Marcelo Sala, 50, of Reseda, who owns the 1810 Argentinean Restaurant in Pasadena, said, "To me personally, it's not a big deal."

But Sala said he is not a devout Catholic. He was born in Buenos Aires and immigrated 23 years ago.

“It’s definitely a good thing because people will know more about Argentina,” Sala said.

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L.A. Latinos praise Spanish-speaking, Latin American pope

The selection of Pope Francis I resonated across Southern California as Spanish-speaking Catholics said they were especially pleased to hear a Latin American pontiff would lead the church for the first time.

Parishioners gathered for noon Mass at St. Emydius Catholic Church in Lynwood said they clapped when Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio's name was announced but clapped even louder when they heard he was from Argentina.

"I'm very pleased with a Latino," said Maria Ramirez, 65, who is originally from Mexico. "It's possible that he will understand other Latinos better."

PHOTOS: Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio elected pope

"As the pope, he is the pope to the whole world, but I'm very pleased that he's from Latin America," she said in Spanish.

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.

FULL COVERAGE: The papal conclave

White smoke signaling a decision had been made poured out of the Sistine Chapel shortly after 11 a.m. PDT, prompting pealing bells and celebratory Masses at churches across Southern California.
Continue reading »

The new pope: Cheers in L.A. for first Latin American pontiff

As an Argentine cardinal was introduced in Vatican City as Pope Francis I, one Cypress Park priest celebrated the first pontiff from the Americas, calling it a historic moment.

Father Marco Ortiz was visiting a family earlier Wednesday when he got a text from another priest that read: "There's white smoke." Ortiz ran back to the Divine Saviour Catholic Church in Cypress Park, where he watched reports from Vatican City naming Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as the next pontiff.

"This is history," Ortiz said.

FULL COVERAGE: The papal conclave

When Bergoglio emerged onto a balcony at St. Peter's Basilica as Pope Francis I, Ortiz clasped his hands together.

"It's happening now," he said. "Oh, it's happening now."

Ortiz said the selection of a non-European as the 266th pope "says a lot about the openness of the church and the movement of the Holy Spirit."

PHOTOS: Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio elected pope

"Europe is going through a lot of crisis regarding our faith, and what's saved the church are the Americas," he said.

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.

White smoke signaling a decision had been made poured out of the Sistine Chapel shortly after 11 a.m. PDT, prompting pealing bells and celebratory Masses at churches across Southern California.

PHOTOS: A new pope is chosen

Marie Lopez of Alhambra took a break from work to come to the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles after she heard the bells. She's been praying for the cardinals since the conclave began, she said.

"It's so exciting to hear the bells," she said. "I haven't stopped smiling."

At the church, bells pealed as workers hung yellow and white bunting -- the colors of the Vatican City -- over the main entrance. A special Mass began shortly after noon.

INTERACTIVE: Choosing a new pope

In Little Saigon, Hung Nguyen said he had been reading French newspapers online to brush up on popes of centuries past, learning how their personal touches affected the course of Catholic history.

Nguyen said he was interested to see which direction the new pontiff might lead the church considering the recent problems it had seen.

"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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New pope: Los Angeles faithful eagerly await word

As white smoke poured out of the Sistine Chapel chimney Wednesday morning, Catholics in Southern California were pleased to hear they had a new pontiff.

The decision came on the second day of a conclave of 115 cardinals gathered in Vatican City. The white smoke came shortly after 11 a.m. PDT, though the pope has not yet been identified.

Marcus Anderson, 59, read a Bible outside the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles, where bells rang nonstop after the announcement. He said he was "very happy" at the news.

FULL COVERAGE: Choosing a pope

"I was thinking it might have taken a little longer," Anderson said. "I'm excited to know who it is."

Anderson said he's felt a "vacancy" since Pope Benedict XVI stepped down last month. He hoped the new pontiff would be loyal and dedicated to the faith, and said he would like to see priests be allowed to marry.

The next pope "will have a lot of things on his plate," Anderson said.

Anderson said he had hoped the conclave would select a cardinal from the United States or the Philippines as the next pope, but said he would be pleased with the decision no matter what.

Delia Aragon, 62, of Pico Rivera, agreed.

"Whoever is going to be the pope is going to be our pope, and we're going to love him," she said.

Marie Lopez, of Alhambra took a break from work to come to the downtown church after she heard the bells. She's been praying for the cardinals since the conclave began, she said.

"It's so exciting to hear the bells," she said. "I haven't stopped smiling."

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A lawyer for the alleged victims said he believed the file release "played heavily" into the archdiocese's decision to settle the case regarding four lawsuits against the archdiocese involving Michael Baker, a parish priest accused of molesting at least 23 boys over three decades.

The church has settled numerous cases brought by Baker's alleged victims in the past.

FULL COVERAGE: Priest abuse scandal

Many of the documents detailed Cardinal Roger Mahony's dealings with Baker. The priest admitted his abuse of two boys to the then-archbishop during a 1986 retreat. Mahony sent Baker to a New Mexico treatment center but later returned him to the ministry, and Baker molested again.

In 2007, he was convicted of abusing two boys and sent to prison. Two of the civil cases settled were set for trial next month. Vince Finaldi, a lawyer for the alleged victims, said he believed the file release "played heavily" into the archdiocese's decision to settle the cases.

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Continue reading »

Cardinal Mahony tweets request for prayers before papal conclave

PHOTOS: Vatican Conclave 2013

Integrating 21st century technology into a nearly 2,000-year tradition, Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony took to Twitter and his blog Tuesday to ask for prayers as he and 114 other cardinals begin the selection of the next pope.

“Last tweet before moving to Casa Santa Martha, and Mass to Elect a Pope,” Mahony tweeted from his account @CardinalMahony. “First Conclave meeting late Tuesday afternoon. Prayers needed.”

On his blog, Mahony reposted the prayer he and the rest of the cardinals will take Tuesday morning and recounted what’s to come when the cardinals are sequestered in the Sistine Chapel to select a new pope.

PHOTOS: Vatican Conclave 2013

Many have criticized Mahony's participation in the selection process, as recent revelations show he helped cover up years of sexual abuse by priests.

The conclave-–the process where the 115-person College of Cardinals elect the pope-–has taken place in the Sistine Chapel for the last 954 years, Mahony wrote. There have been 12 popes selected in that time.

Continue reading »
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