NORMAN — Even though Rome is thousands of miles from Norman, it didn’t take long Wednesday afternoon for news to spread that Jorge Bergoglio, of Argentina, had been elected as pope.
Father Sami Chaaya of Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Catholic Church in Norman was very excited about the announcement.
“I’m very excited that the Cardinals voted a pope from South America. I was just speaking to my superior who knows him (Pope Francis) personally. He was a very modest Cardinal. He cooks for himself. He lives by himself. He takes public transportation,” Chaaya said. “I think that is very nice and I understand why the Cardinals agreed on a new pope so quickly.”
Chaaya also wasn’t surprised that the pope took on the name Francis, adding that St. Francis also was very modest.
“It is a bold name to choose. In a way, I understand why he chose it, as I’m sure St. Francis has been a mentor for him,” Chaaya said.
Even though Deacon Larry Sousa of St. Joseph Catholic Church lives in Norman, he couldn’t help but feel the excitement in the air surrounding Wednesday’s announcement.
“I was actually driving my car when I heard there was white smoke. Even though I’m not there, chills came over me. The suspense was unbelievable. When he actually came out, it almost moved me to tears. The last time I felt that way was my daughter’s wedding,” Sousa said.
Sousa is concerned that many things within the Catholic community will not change.
“I am excited about the possibility for change, but I don’t think there will be a lot of change. This pope was apparently selected by Pope Benedict to be Cardinal. So he’s probably about the same school,” Sousa said. “What I do think is gratifying is that we are addressing the demographic of the Catholic Church. Right now, 40 percent of the Catholic Church are Latin Americans.”
Sousa expects Pope Francis to be an advocate of the poor and a character of humility.
“I think the greatest asset that he will bring is his witness to Christ,” Sousa said.
Father Tom Boyer, of St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church, added that he was surprised by Wednesday’s announcement.
“Surprises are always exciting, and it was a surprise. I’m not surprised of the speed, although I was expecting it to be announced tomorrow,” Fr. Boyer said. “I was surprised that they chose someone south of the equator and someone who is Spanish speaking.”