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.
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