Local theology teacher: Argentinian Pope is nod to the poor and ‘Hispanic culture’

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian Arts & Features Reporter



New pope is Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina (with videos)

New pope is Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina (with videos)

Ed Chan grew up on the Pacific island of Guam, a U.S. territory, and traveled back and forth between there and the mainland several times before settling here in 2002.

Chan, 41, a theology teacher at Seton Catholic College Preparatory High School in Vancouver, choked up as he considered the meaning of a Latin American pope — the first from “outside a first-world country,” he said.

“I don’t know why I’m crying,” Chan said. “I don’t know the guy.”

But the choice of an Argentinian, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, to serve as newly minted Pope Francis, emphasizes the church’s responsibility to represent and care for the poor all around the globe, Chan said.

“This speaks to our need to care for the poor and the place the poor have in the church,” he said. “Francis went from being rich to being poor. We see Jesus in the face of the poor.”

The church is emphasizing “South America and Hispanic culture,” he said.

Chan said the whole school population was getting ready for its regular daily Mass when white smoke poured out of the Sistine Chapel chimney — so Mass was tinged with extra excitement and anticipation at the news that a decision had been reached. After Mass, everybody scattered to class — but all got back together to watch the new pope emerge on television.

“This is great news for the church and can only be accepted with great humility and reverence,” he said.

Jesuit connection

In a statement, Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain noted that Bergoglio is a Jesuit and has chosen the name Pope Francis I.

“His election holds particular excitement for the many Jesuits who serve in the Archdiocese of Seattle, and I congratulate them as well. I have no doubt that Franciscans around the world also rejoice that he has taken the name of their founder, Francis of Assisi, a man called by God in the early 13th century to live the gospel wholeheartedly, clearly and simply.”

Sartain was in St. Peter’s Square in Rome when Pope John Paul II was elected nearly 35 years ago; while he was here in the U.S. on Wednesday, “I was again filled with excitement, awe and hope in God. We in the United States may not yet know much about Pope Francis I, but as with our previous popes the coming years will reveal the gift God has given us.”

Sartain said that Bergoglio’s “choice of the name Francis signals that he strives to be a man of humility and love for the poor, and the fact that he asked the hundreds of thousands standing before him to pray for him further underscores his humility.”