The selection of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Pope Francis I has come as a welcome surprise for many in the local Catholic community as well as some in the Jewish community.
Rabbi Carla Freedman of the Jewish Family Congregation in South Salem said like many, she was pleased to see the selection of a non-European pope, but wasn't sure the choice would bring about the changes that "so many North American Roman Catholics seem to be looking for."
"My understanding is that North American Catholics have moved well beyond the ultra-conservative positions on social issues that characterize the last two popes and all of the cardinals they appointed—including the former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio—who were the electors this time around," she said.
"While it is encouraging to learn that the new pope has made the concerns of the poor a central issue of his ministry, it is highly unlikely, based on statements he has made to date, that he will move in a radical way to address such pressing issues as the shortage of priests, clerical celibacy, women as priests, and the array of issues pertaining to human sexuality," Freedman added.
Two local students of the Catholic-based Montfort Academy this week told Patch they thought Bergogolio was the right choice for a modern church. "Being a Catholic today is difficult...It's important to be strong," said Krishna Magalona in reaction to the choice.
Another resident this week said they thought his name choice signified concern for the poor. Rabbi Freedman agreed, with a note of caution.
"I have been impressed with the modest lifestyle that Pope Francis I has lived up till now, but I wonder how much of the pomp and circumstance and imperial trappings of the papacy he can avoid, now that he has assumed this august position," she said.
Freedman wondered how Pope Francis I would reconcile himself to the "gilded and potentially insulated life" his new role will force upon him.
There is much to be wished for in the rise of this man to such a position of influence, and only time will reveal whether we will be pleased by his use of it," she said.