By George P. Matysek Jr.
Archbishop William E. Lori has only met newly elected Pope Francis in passing, but the Baltimore archbishop said he has been impressed with the former Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s reputation for holiness and pastoral concern for the poor.
“There are many, many stories of his direct outreach to the poor,” Archbishop Lori said in a March 13 news conference at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Homeland approximately two hours after Pope Francis was introduced to the world.
The archbishop noted that as archbishop of Buenos Aires, Pope Francis visited AIDS patients and personally washed them. He was present to the poor and spoke about poverty, Archbishop Lori said.
“(He did) all of that out of a robust Catholic faith – showing us that there’s no divide between holding fast to the faith and being a man of pastoral love and pastoral action,” Archbishop Lori said.
Archbishop Lori noted that “the church that proclaims the God of love and proclaims the Beatitudes really needs to be close to the poor.”
“I think we will certainly see that in this Holy Father,” he said.
While it’s too soon to tell what direction the new pope will take, Archbishop Lori said he expects to see the pontiff show “great continuity” in preaching the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic faith.
“What his particular priorities will be I really don’t know,” Archbishop Lori said, “except that he certainly has manifested a great strength in Buenos Aires as an evangelist – as one who proclaims the Gospel with great vigor and great appeal to people. I think we will see him urging the church on in the direction of the new evangelization.”
It “says a lot” to Hispanic Catholics that the College of Cardinals elected the first pope from South America, Archbishop Lori said.
“I could only imagine the hope and the joy that is welling up in the hearts of Hispanic Catholics here in the archdiocese and all over this continent,” he said, acknowledging that the new pope is also the first Jesuit.
With a smile, Archbishop Lori said he expected to hear champagne corks popping as he passed Loyola University Maryland, a nearby Baltimore institution headed by Jesuits.
“I think it’s a wonderful thing that an order with such a distinguished history in education and evangelization would now have its first Holy Father,” he said.
Archbishop Lori admitted that he was surprised by the election of Pope Francis because the new pope was not mentioned as prominently as he had been in the conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI.
The Baltimore archbishop was impressed and moved that after Pope Francis looked out at the great throng of people in St. Peter’s Square after his election, he “seized the day” and asked people to pray for him before he gave his first blessing as pope.
“I think he understood very much the need for prayer,” Archbishop Lori said.
March 13, 2013 CatholicReview.org