.- American politicians offered prayers and congratulations upon hearing the news that Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, SJ, had been elected as the Successor to St. Peter, taking the name Pope Francis.
“On behalf of the American people, Michelle and I offer our warm wishes to His Holiness Pope Francis as he ascends to the Chair of Saint Peter and begins his papacy,” said United States President Barack Obama in a March 13 statement.
Pope Francis, formerly archbishop of Buenos Aires, is the first pope from the Americas, as well as the first Jesuit Pope. He was elected by the College of Cardinals during the fifth vote of the conclave on March 13.
“Just as I appreciated our work with Pope Benedict XVI,” President Obama said, “I look forward to working with His Holiness to advance peace, security and dignity for our fellow human beings, regardless of their faith.”
“We join with people around the world in offering our prayers for the Holy Father as he begins the sacred work of leading the Catholic Church in our modern world.”
A host of Catholic politicians also welcomed the new Holy Father, who was elected by the College of Cardinals on the evening of March 13. He is both the first Jesuit and the first Latin American to be elected Pope.
Vice President Joe Biden announced that he will lead a U.S. delegation to Rome for the installment of Pope Francis on March 19.
“Jill and I want to offer our congratulations to His Holiness Pope Francis, and extend our prayers as he takes on this holy responsibility,” Biden said in a statement.
He explained that the Church “plays an essential role in my life and the lives of more than a billion people in America and around the world, not just in matters of our faith, but in pursuit of peace and human dignity for all faiths.”
Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) voiced gratitude for the election, saying “Thanks be to God for our new pope,” in a statement.
Boehner said that American Catholics “rejoice over this news, and offer our prayers and blessings to His Holiness with confidence that he will fill the Chair of St. Peter with grace.” He added that the Pope’s Latin American roots mark “a new milestone in the history of a faith that has endured for millennia.”
The Speaker of the House also noted the new Pontiff’s humility and charity, reflected in the Pope’s choice of the name “Francis,” saying that the decision sets “an example for how to make God’s love visible to all, especially those in despair or pain.”
U.S. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), also welcomed the new Holy Father.
“With the election of His Holiness Pope Francis, the world’s Catholics turn to a compassionate leader for the poor, a champion of the least fortunate, and a man of humility committed to love and understanding between faiths and nations,” she said.
Senator Marco Rubio (R- Fla.) live-tweeted updates on the election of the new Pope, posting the phrase “habemus papam,” which translates as “we have a pope,” on Twitter as white smoke appeared over the Vatican. Rubio continued as information became available, tweeting updates on who the Pope is and the name he had chosen.
Former senator and Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), who has spoken openly on his Catholic faith many times, also issued a statement offering prayers for Pope Francis and the world, saying that we “stand with open hearts to embrace our new spiritual father, the successor of St. Peter.”
“And as I watched today’s events unfold and the white smoke rise from the chimney of the Vatican,” Santorum added, “I couldn’t help but be struck by such an awesome celebration of faith in the public square.”