.- 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."