York County excited about new South American Pope

The selection of Argentinian Jorge Bergoglio to be pope is an “exciting,” “thrilling,” even “momentous” day for the world’s Roman Catholics, York County Catholics and religious scholars said Wednesday.

“It is just wonderful,” said Father Fabio Refosco, a Brazilian-born priest at St. Anne Catholic Church in Rock Hill. “For the pope, our leader, to be from South America is not just comforting, it is thrilling.

“He will speak the language of hundreds of millions of Catholics in the Americas.”

York County has seen an influx of thousands of Latin American immigrants in recent years, many of whom are Roman Catholic.

Guillermo Nunez, a deacon and member of St. Anne church originally from Colombia, called it “a great day for our church.”

Even more, Nunez and Refosco said, is the pride that a person from Latin America has been selected to lead the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.

Peter Judge, a religion professor and dean of the College of Arts & Sciences at Winthrop University, called the selection of a South American pope momentous.

“The population of Catholics in Latin America is huge, and this first pope from outside of Europe seems to me a good sign,” Judge said.

The pope is not just a religious leader, he said, but a world leader.

“This is not a religious story, or a religious event, but a world story and event important and of interest to people around the world,” Judge said.

The selection of Bergoglio – the first non-European pope in more than 1,000 years – is important for the church, said Father Joe Pearce, from Rock Hill’s Oratory, which administers the six Catholic churches in York and Lancaster counties.

“This is the first pope from the New World, and it just may usher in a new era that focuses outside of Europe,” Pearce said. “What he brings is hope to the people of the church. It is an exciting time.”

Bergoglio, who will take the name Pope Francis, is known as a person who identifies with the common man and is committed to the world’s poor and less fortunate, local Catholics said.

“Many consider this man a living saint,” Pearce said.

Local Catholics likely will ask many questions about Pope Francis at Masses today and for days and weeks, said Father John Giuliani, provost of The Oratory.

With Easter looming, the selection will be the talk of all parishes.

“We do not have a new pope every day,” Giuliani said with a chuckle. “But today we do.”