Orlando, Fla., Mar 15, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The unprecedented level of media devoted to the election of Pope Francis is a clear indicator of the importance of the Church today, a Catholic author and blogger reflected.
“The main thing that struck me is what I'd call the paradox of irrelevancy,” Brandon Vogt told CNA March 14, “which is the world saying the Church is irrelevant but then turning its attention to the Church.”
In the weeks leading up to Pope Francis' election, Vogt noted that much of the commentary from the secular press focused on how “outdated” and “unimportant” the Church is, yet when it came time for the conclave “all heads turn towards Rome.”
“Before the conclave you have this great accusation of irrelevance,” he explained, “but, paradoxically, at the conclave you have the most relevant event to the entire world.”
“I think what it shows is that deep down,” Vogt said, “the secular world knows that the Church is relevant.”
The 26-year-old blogger is author of the acclaimed 2011 book, “The Church in the New Media.” His work has been featured in NPR, FoxNews, EWTN, Our Sunday Visitor and National Review.
As news of the white smoke indicating the election of a new Pontiff broke, Vogt said he was shocked by the reaction he saw not only from the secular media, but also from non-Catholic friends in social media.
Vogt, who converted to Catholicism five years ago, said he was surprised to see that even his Protestant friends shared in the “exhilaration and excitement” of the Catholic Church.
Even people in circles who would say that the Holy Father is “not important” or even “a spiritually dangerous figure” watched the results with the “same enthusiasm” as Catholics, Vogt said.
“I think that all people, Catholics and non-Catholics, ultimately sense the transcendence of this event,” he said. “They all know that something is going on that is bigger than us, that is bigger than America, that’s bigger than the secular media (and is) something beyond our control and understanding.”
Although the selection process of a new pontiff is “shut off from the world,” the “universality” of the Church was apparent in how the process brought “the world together as a community.”
In the past, people may have gathered to watch the announcement on television, but most likely one would have learned of the news via radio or newspaper and then discussed it days later with friends or family.
This time, however, as soon as Pope Francis “stepped down to the balcony,” Vogt said, “friends and I were automatically exchanging pictures and articles and commentary.”
That kind of communication and interaction “has never happened before.”
Vogt said social media helped “echo” the universality of the Church as reaction to the first non-European Pope of the modern era flooded the internet.
Within the first hour of the Argentine's pontificate, Vogt said he was able to witness celebrations all over Latin America, read commentary from authors throughout Europe and view pictures from Africa.
Taking the example of the conclave and election of Pope Francis, Vogt said that even if the public and the media does not, “understand that it’s God behind it” the attention is received shows that “they sense the majesty, the beauty, the brilliance (and) the tradition of something great.”
Rome, Italy, Mar 15, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The Society of Jesus and Franciscans reacted with gratitude to the election of Pope Francis, who is both the first Jesuit Pope and the first pontiff named after the Franciscans' founder St. Francis of Assisi.
“I give thanks to God for the election of our new Pope, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, S.J., which opens for the Church a path full of hope,” Father Adolfo Nicolas, S.J., Superior General of the Society of Jesus, said March 14.
“All of us Jesuits accompany with our prayers our brother and we thank him for his generosity in accepting the responsibility of guiding the Church at this crucial time,” he noted.
“From the very first moment in which he appeared before the people of God, he gave visible witness to his simplicity, his humility, his pastoral experience and his spiritual depth.”
Praise also came from the Franciscans of Holy Name Province, the largest community of friars in the U.S. The U.S.-based community has over 300 priests and brothers in 12 states near the East Coast.
Provincial minister Fr. John O'Connor, O.F.M., congratulated the Jesuits “on the occasion of one of their own being elected Pope.”
Fr. O'Connor said he was “delighted” to see a cardinal from South America become Pope, saying this “reflects the true universality of the Catholic Church.”
“This hopefully will move the Church in new and creative ways to evangelize the people of God and respond to the challenges the Church faces today in so many areas of the world,” he said.
“I pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to guide our new Holy Father and the Church as we move forward in history.”
Franciscans have been particularly receptive to Pope Francis’ choice of name.
While some have speculated that the Pope took his name from other famous saints named Francis, like the Jesuit missionary St. Francis Xavier, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi has confirmed that the Pope intended to take his name from the 13th century aristocrat who left his wealthy family to serve the poor and rebuild the Church.
Without intending, St. Francis of Assisi helped create a new Catholic religious order.
Holy Name provincial vicar Fr. Dominic Monti, O.F.M., a church historian, said he believes Pope Francis’ choice of name “reflects his attention to the poor and marginalized.”
Fr. O'Connor said he is “proud” of St. Francis’ impact.
“He challenged the clericalism in the Church, he led by his example of humility, and he reached out to people of all faiths, economic classes and backgrounds,” he said.
“Everything that I hear so far about our new Pope tells me that he is committed to do the same.”
The Jesuit Fr. Nicolas also praised St. Francis. He said Francis is a name that evokes “the Holy Father's evangelical spirit of closeness to the poor, his identification with simple people, and his commitment to the renewal of the Church.”
Fr. Nicolas said the Jesuits “share in the joy of the whole Church” and wish to “express our renewed availability to be sent into the vineyard of the Lord” according to their special vow of obedience.
In addition to standard religious vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, the Jesuits vow obedience to the Pope with regard to mission work.
Fr. Nicolas said the vow “so distinctively” unites Jesuits with the Pope.
The Jesuits were founded in 1540 by St. Ignatius Loyola. The Franciscans have had several members ascend to the papacy since their order’s founding in 1209.
Denver, Colo., Mar 15, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Despite “seeming anomalies” in the election of Pope Francis, a former ambassador to the Vatican said that seeing the event through the eyes of faith can give us a glimpse into the wisdom of the Holy Spirit.
“I have confidence in the College of Cardinals and the Holy Spirit,” said Jim Nicholson, who served as U.S. ambassador to the Holy See from 2001-2005.
“They know very well what the Church needs today,” he told CNA.
On March 13, Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected by the cardinals as the new Pope, taking the name Francis.
The Holy Father made his first public appearance from the balcony of St. Peter’s on the evening of March 13, greeting the crowds gathered in the square below. Pope Francis' installation Mass as Bishop of Rome will be on March 19, the Feast of St. Joseph, at 9:30 a.m. in St. Peter’s Square.
Nicholson said that while some may “think there are superficial contradictions” in the election of Cardinal Bergoglio, he finds the choice “terrific.”
“A combination of social justice and orthodoxy. That is greatly needed,” he said.
One of the apparent anomalies surrounding the election was the fact that Cardinal Bergoglio’s name had not been one of those mentioned as a top possibility for Pope when the conclave began, said Nicholson. And while it had seemed like the cardinals were largely undecided and there was no clear frontrunner, the conclave lasted just two days – shorter than many Vatican analysts had anticipated.
The former ambassador said that while this contradicted many people’s expectations, it shows that Pope Francis was “obviously very well regarded” among his brother cardinals.
The choice of Cardinal Bergoglio was also “very positive,” he explained, because there is such a “heavy concentration of Catholics in Latin America,” and the Church there has the potential for significant growth.
Nicholson also said that he sees the election of the Church's first Jesuit Pope as significant.
Pope Francis “has been providing a literal example of Christ’s humility,” he said, describing the new Pontiff as man who has lived a life of austerity, “while being a highly regarded scholar.”
The Pope is a “model of simplicity and humility, riding public transportation to work, living in a small apartment,” he reflected.
The Holy Father’s choice of the name “Francis” is another of the “seeming anomalies,” Nicholson said, observing that St. Francis of Assisi is “the founder of an order of which he is not a part.”
In addition, he said, although St. Francis of Assisi is “one of the most beloved saints in the Church,” no Pope has ever taken his name before.
However, taking St. Francis’ name is “consistent with his lifestyle,” which is characterized by humility, austerity and a dedication to the poor, he explained.
The age of the new Pontiff – 76, one year past the customary retirement age for bishops – was also a surprise to the former ambassador. Still, he commented, the cardinals see “in him the energy to do the job,” which will assuredly be an “enormous” task.
Ultimately, Nicholson explained, he has confidence in the new Holy Father because he trusts that the Holy Spirit was guiding the cardinals in voting for the man whom the Church needs as a spiritual leader at this moment in history.
The election has “created a new paradigm,” he said.
Vatican City, Mar 15, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Francis urged the College of Cardinals to courageously persevere in finding new ways to evangelize.
“We have the certainty that the Holy Spirit gives his Church, with his powerful breath, the courage to persevere and to search for new ways to evangelize,” Pope Francis said on March 15 in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall.
He met with cardinals, including the elderly ones who did not participate in his election at 11:00 a.m. local time on Friday.
The Argentinian Pope asked the cardinals to give the wisdom they have learned over their lives to young people.
“Like good wine that improves with age, let us give young people this life’s wisdom.
“Half of us are old and I like to think of old age as the seat of wisdom in life,” said Pope Francis.
He compared old people’s wisdom to that of the Bible’s Simeon and Anna, which allowed them to recognize Jesus.
“I remember what a German poet said about aging, ‘old age is a time of peace and prayer,’” he said in reference to his favorite poet, Friedrich Hölderlin.
But Pope Francis’ addressed the cardinals as “brother cardinals” instead of “Lord cardinals,” something unusual for a Pope to do, according to the Vatican’s press office director, Father Federico Lombardi.
Pope Francis, who was elected on March 13, told the cardinals that the Holy Spirit is “a paraclete” and that he “creates all the differences in the Church and seems like an apostle of Babel.”
“On the other hand, the Paraclete unifies all these differences, not making them equal but in harmony with one another,” he explained.
He also thanked the cardinals for their service to the Church in recent days and informed them that Cardinal Jorge M. Mejía, who suffered a heart attack on the day of the Pope's election, is now in a stable condition.
The new Pope also noted that his predecessor Benedict XVI “enriched the Church with his teaching, goodness, guidance, faith, humility, and his meekness, which will remain the spiritual patrimony of all.”
“We feel that Benedict XVI lit a flame in the depth of our hearts, a flame that continues to burn because it will be fanned by his prayers that will continue to sustain the Church on its spiritual and missionary journey,” Pope Francis said.
“Our fervent prayer will always accompany him, our eternal memory, and affectionate gratitude,” he remarked.
The pontiff said the encounter was meant to be “the continuation of that intense ecclesial communion” experienced during this period.
He finished off the meeting by spending time greeting and speaking with each individual cardinal.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Mar 15, 2013 (CNA) - In response to accusations against Pope Francis, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and human rights defender said the new Pontiff has no ties to the dictatorship that Argentina endured from 1976 - 1983.
Adolfo Perez Esquivel, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1980, is known for his sympathy for the left in Latin America and for his defense of Marxist Liberation Theology and the Castro regime.
During Benedict XVI’s visit to Cuba in March of 2012, he said the Pope “should learn to listen, he shouldn’t come with his prejudices. He should come with an open heart and mind.”
“This Pope was the inquisitor of Liberation Theology, but the Pope needs a conversion. Cubans need to help him be converted,” he said at the time.
Despite those previous statements, Perez Esquivel told the BBC this week that “there were bishops who were accomplices of the dictatorship, but not (Cardinal) Bergoglio.”
Pope Francis “is being questioned because they say he did not do enough to get two priests released from jail when he was superior of the Jesuits,” Perez Esquivel said. “But I personally know that many bishops asked the military regime to release prisoners and priests and it was not granted.”
“He has no connection to the dictatorship,” the Nobel laureate stated.
Rome, Italy, Mar 15, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - He thought it was a joke. The young doorman at the Jesuit motherhouse in Rome never expected to receive a phone call from Pope Francis.
The Holy Father had to patiently and kindly convince the doorman who he was in order to speak with the Father General of the Jesuits to thank him for a letter the Pontiff received upon his election.
According to Father Claudio Barriga, SJ, who recounted the incident in an email to fellow Jesuits around the world, the unexpected phone call from Pope came around 10:15 a.m. Rome time on Thursday.
“The doorman answered the phone. They said it was call from St. Martha’s Residence and he heard a soft and serene voice: ‘Buon Giorno, sono il Papa Francesco, vorrei parlare con il Padre Generale (Good morning, it’s Pope Francis. I’d like to speak with the Father General).’”
“The doorman almost answered: ‘Yeah, and I’m Napoleon,’ but he resisted. Instead he replied curtly, ‘May I ask who’s calling?’ The Pope realized the young Italian man didn’t believe it was him, so he kindly repeated, ‘Seriously, it’s Pope Francis. What’s your name?’”
“Ever since the Pope’s election, our phone has been ringing every two minutes and a lot of people are calling, including a few lunatics,” Father Barriga said.
“Once the doorman realized his mistake he answered with a hesitant and nervous voice: ‘My name is Andrew.’”
“How are you, Andrew?” asked the Pope.
“Fine, pardon me, just a little bit confused.”
The Holy Father responded, “Don’t worry, could you please connect me with the Father General? I would like to thank him for the beautiful letter he sent me.”
“Pardon me, Your Holiness, I’ll connect you right now,” said the doorman.
“No problem. I’ll wait as long as necessary,” said Pope Francis.
The doorman handed the phone to the Father General’s private secretary, Brother Alfonso.
“Hello?” Brother Alfonso said.
“With whom am I speaking?” the Pope asked.
“It’s Alfonso, the Father General’s personal secretary,” he replied.
“It’s the Pope, I would like to speak with the Father General to thank him for the beautiful letter he sent me,” the Holy Father said.
“Sure, just a moment,” Brother Alfonso replied in amazement.
As he made his way to the office of Father Adolfo Nicolas, the Jesuit Father General, he continued his conversation.
“Holy Father, congratulations on your election! We are all happy here for your election, we are praying a lot for you,” Brother Alfonso told him.
“Praying that I keep going or that I turn back?” the Pope joked.
“That you keep going, of course,” he replied, as the Holy Father laughed.
“Stunned and bewildered, Brother Alfonso didn’t even bother to knock and simply entered the office of the Father General, who looked at him with surprise. He gave him the phone, looked at him and said: The Pope,” Father Barriga recounted.
“We don’t know the details about what happened next, but the Pope cordially thanked the Father General for his letter. The Father General said he would like to see him to greet him. The Pope said he would instruct his secretary so that they could meet as soon as possible and that somebody from the Vatican would be in touch,” Father Barriga said in his message.
Rome, Italy, Mar 15, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Just as Pope John Paul II influenced many in Poland, the rise of an Argentinian to the papacy is set to dramatically change the lives of many Christians, according to head of the Knights of Columbus.
"I think it offers the same kind of a potential for a great renewal of Catholicism and Christianity all throughout the Western Hemisphere," Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said March 15.
Just two days ago, the 76-year-old head of the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, was elected Pope. A humble man by all accounts, the Jesuit priest took the name Francis after the famous 13th-century saint of Assisi.
Anderson compared the recent election to Bl. John Paul II's election in 1978 that brought hope to Eastern Europeans in the midst of the Cold War.
"35 years later now," he told CNA, "we have a Pope coming from Latin America, from the Americas, and I'm sure in the United States so many millions of Hispanic Catholics are looking now to Pope Francis as someone who will really change their lives for the better, too."
Since 1881, Anderson's Knights have made it their mission to offer assistance to people throughout the Americas and abroad according to their founding principles of charity, unity and fraternity. Their presence is felt throughout the United States, Mexico and the Caribbean and even overseas through their 1.8 million members.
They have also been prominent in promoting Bl. John Paul II's idea of uniting North and South as "a single entity with a Christian heritage and a Christian future," as Anderson put it.
The Knights are enthused that this concept is well engrained in the experience of the Buenos Aires-born Pope.
"Pope Francis speaks directly to that, is a product of that," said Anderson. "His entire ministry has been that and so we're going to be strongly united with him in moving this forward."
Their work of better uniting members of the Catholic Church in the Americas has been given a major boost with the election of a Latin American pope.
"I think the next step will be to bring this reflection more closely into North America and into the entire Western Hemisphere, that we can begin to do the work, not just speak about the potential but begin the actualization of the potential."
For the Knights, said the Supreme Knight, "it's going to be a very important pontificate."
As for their specific work at this point, he concluded, "we need to take our part and cooperate with so many others in the Church's reality, build the Church like the Lord said to Francis and I think we're going to see Him say the same thing to Pope Francis."
Vatican City, Mar 15, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Francis told the Apostolic Nuncio to Argentina to ask his countrymen not to travel to Italy for the ceremony that will begin his pontificate.
“Tell the bishops and the faithful to make an offering and an act of solidarity to the poor with the money instead,” said the Vatican’s press office director, Father Federico Lombardi.
Fr. Lombardi spoke March 15 with the nuncio, Archbishop Emil Paul Tscherrig, who confirmed that Pope Francis had telephoned him on the night of his election.
“But those who know him find this very normal, since it is his style,” said Fr. Lombardi at the Vatican’s media center.
“I don’t think he forbade it, he just said it wasn’t necessary for people to come to his installation Mass,” he added.
Archbishop Tscherrig also told the Vatican’s press office director that people in Buenos Aires “are breathing a big atmosphere of joy and of prayer.”
“He said a lot of people are going to church and that in the parish where Pope Francis normally offers Mass, the parish priest told the nuncio that he spent the whole day confessing, including many people who haven’t been to confession in 15 or so years,” said Fr. Lombardi.
“It’s a beautiful moment of grace, of a lot of joy and of a lot of spiritual vitality for the Church now in Argentina,” he remarked.
Fr. Lombardi, who like Pope Francis belongs to the religious order of the Society of Jesus, also added that he thinks the Pope will be dispensed from one of the order’s four vows.
The Jesuits vow to live lives of poverty, charity, obedience, and specifically obedience to the Pope with regard to mission work.
“Evidently he doesn’t have a Pope to obey, so I think the election of Pope Francis dispenses him from this vow,” he said.
Damascus, Syria, Mar 15, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
While the world marks the second anniversary of demonstrations that began what is now the Syrian civil war, the Sisters of Charity of Besançon continue to help the poor of the country's capital.
“Everybody is afraid. They don't know how long they have to live,” Sister Marie-Joseph Chanaa told Aid to the Church in Need March 13.
When someone goes to work he doesn't know if he'll come home again,” she said.
Sr. Chanaa and five other Sisters of Charity of Besançon work and pray in Damascus to care for their neighbors, who are caught in the midst of war. She said to Aid to the Church in Need that they pray daily for peace, and she encourages those she helps to maintain hope.
On March 15, 2011, demonstrations across Syria sprang up, protesting the rule of Bashar al-Assad, Syria's president and leader the country's Ba'ath Party. The next month the Syrian army began to deploy to put down the uprisings, firing on protesters.
Since then, the conflict has morphed into a civil war, and many governments have recognized the rebels as the legitimate representatives of the Syrian people. The rebels control the Euphrates river and much of the north of the country, with the Assad government controlling cities in the east.
The UN estimates that 70,000 people have been killed in the war.
The fighting continues to put pressure on Syria's minority Christian population, leading to fears that more Syrians will join the many Christians who have already left the Middle East. About 10 percent of Syria's population is Christian.
More than 1 million refugees from Syria have flooded into Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, and Iraq, and inside Syria another estimated 2.5 million human persons are internally displaced. Of the 1 million refugees, in January it was estimated that some 300,000 were Christian.
The Syrian rebels are divided among secularists who support a Western-style democracy, and Islamists who may impose sharia law on the nation.
The European Union has levied an arms embargo against Syria, but some are calling for it to be lifted. Both Russia and Iran are believed to be arming the Syrian government, and this week both the UK and France have indicated a desire to arm the rebels.
“If we want to take individual action, (and) we think that is in our national interest, of course we are free to do so,” UK prime minister David Cameron said at a March 15 press conference.
Denver, Colo., Mar 15, 2013 (CNA) - A YouTube video produced by the grassroots political organization Catholic Vote is celebrating the election of Pope Francis to “give glory to God and His Church,” the website's founder has said.
“Pope Francis embodies what we must be for the world – humble servants of the great gift of Faith manifested in a profound relationship with Jesus Christ,” Brian Burch, president of CatholicVote.org, told CNA March 15.
“We hope our video inspires others to think anew about Jesus Christ and His Church.”
Nearly two minutes long, the video features scenes from Rome before, during and after the conclave, with voice-overs telling the story of Pope Francis’ election.
“In the midst of all the negativity, uncertainty, scandal and doubt, the election of Pope Francis has been met with near universal acclaim around the world by Catholics, Christians, believers and non-believers alike,” Burch noted.
He said he hopes the video will show Americans “the beauty of our Church.”
While “the ceremonies and rituals of a Conclave are derided as outdated and medieval...tens of millions of people were glued to their televisions and computers Wednesday afternoon.”
“I received emails from numerous non-Catholic friends saying they can't remember being this excited,” he exclaimed. “What more proof do we need of the work of the Holy Spirit?”
On March 13, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires was elected by the College of Cardinals on their fifth ballot, choosing the name Pope Francis. He is the first Jesuit to be elected Pope, as well as the first Latin American Pope.
The process leading up the Pontiff’s election captured the attention of the world, starting with the Feb. 11 announcement by Pope Benedict XVI that he was stepping down from the papacy – the first Pope to do so in centuries – due to old age and declining strength.
All eyes were on Rome as the cardinals gathered for the conclave that would elect the next Successor of Peter. The days that followed were particularly suspenseful because Vatican observers suggested that there was no clear front-runner going into the conclave, so the announcement of the new Holy Father’s identity was highly anticipated.
Pope Francis greeted the crowds of faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square shortly after being elected. He will be inaugurated on March 19, the Feast of St. Joseph.
The video closes with a quote from Pope Francis' address from the loggia overlooking St. Peter's Square the night of his election:
“And now we take up this journey…Let us always pray for one another. Let us pray for the whole world.”
Washington D.C., Mar 15, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - International leaders greeted the election of Pope Francis with joy, noting his commitment to defending Catholic values and caring for the poor.
“I offer my heartfelt congratulations to Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina, who has taken the name Pope Francis on his assumption of the papacy, and to all Catholics across the world on this momentous occasion,” said United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who is from South Korea.
Moon explained that he looks “forward to continuing cooperation between the United Nations and the Holy See.” He also expressed a desire to pursue common goals, “from the promotion of peace, social justice and human rights, to the eradication of poverty and hunger,” with the new Pope.
The Secretary General also affirmed “that His Holiness will continue to build on the legacy of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, in the promotion of inter-faith dialogue, which is at the heart of the Alliance of Civilizations initiative.”
Pope Francis was elected as head of the Catholic Church and leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics on March 13 following the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. The Pope also serves as the leader of the Vatican State, which has permanent observer status at the United Nations.
Other International leaders also offered their congratulations and words of welcome to the new Pope.
The president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, wished Pope Francis “courage and strength.”
“The Pope offers guidance, inspiration and hope to hundreds of millions of believers across the world,” Shulz said. “The choice of a Pope from outside Europe is an encouraging sign.”
He added that a “new impetus is necessary to revive the fundamental values which are at the basis of Christianity,” because these values “are needed more than ever in a world which risks being engulfed in a spiral of materialism and inequality.”
Cristina Kirchner, president of the Pope’s home country of Argentina, said in a statement that the nation wishes Pope Francis “a fruitful pastoral mission, with such tremendous responsibility on his shoulders, seeking justice, equality, brotherhood and peace among mankind.”
Archbishop Diego Padron, president of the Venezuelan bishops’ conference, predicted “extraordinary change” under the new Pope, while observing, “All of Latin America is dropping to its knees to pray, to thank God for this extraordinary gift that he has given us.”
Israeli President Shimon Peres called the new Pope a man who “can add to the attempt to bring peace in a stormy area,” adding that he is an inspiration “for all of us not just for the Catholic community.”
Peres said that Pope Francis “represents the devotion, the love of God, the love of peace, the holy modesty and he represents a new continent which is now awakening.”
He added that the Pope is a “welcome guest,” in Israel.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also “extended an invitation to his holiness to visit the Holy Land” through his spokesman. Abbas added that he was “determined to continue exerting every possible effort in order to foster relations between Palestine and the city of Vatican.”
Chinese officials offered a welcome to the new Pontiff as well, though it was accompanied by strict demands for the Holy See.
“We hope that under the leadership of the new Pope the Vatican will adopt a practical and flexible attitude and create conditions for the improvement of relations between China and the Vatican,” said foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying.
The Vatican and China have come into conflict in past years over China’s insistence that bishop appointments and other Church decisions must be approved by the state.
Hua said that “the new Pope must cut the so-called diplomatic relations with Taiwan, recognizing the Chinese government as the sole legal representative of the whole of China and should not interfere, using the excuse of religion, in the internal affairs of the country.”