March 15, 2013

Archbishop reacts with joy to election of pope

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin speaks on March 13 at the Archbishop O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis to members of the local media about the election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as the new pope, who took the name Francis. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin speaks on March 13 at the Archbishop O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis to members of the local media about the election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as the new pope, who took the name Francis. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin met with members of the local media to share his thoughts about the election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires as Pope Francis, the 265th successor of St. Peter, shortly after the pontiff was introduced to a packed St. Peter’s Square and the world on March 13 at the Vatican.

The press conference was held at the Archbishop O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis. (Watch it here)

“We rejoice that the Lord has given us this holy and learned figure to lead the Church,” Archbishop Tobin said. “And I know that everyone in the archdiocese joins me in promising our obedience and our cooperation to Pope Francis.”

He noted that he had met Pope Francis on several occasions, including during the 2005 Synod of Bishops when they were part of the same small discussion group.

“We sat next to each other for the better part of four weeks,” Archbishop Tobin said.

He said the pontiff’s reputation for simplicity—living in a small apartment, taking a bus to work, cooking his own meals—impressed his mother enough that she wanted him to be elected pope in 2005.

“I told the cardinal later on that he was my mother’s candidate,” Archbishop Tobin said. “He got quite a laugh out of that.”

Archbishop Tobin saw that simplicity on display in the pontiff’s first appearance on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica as he asked the crowd in the square and people around the world to pray for him, and then bowed down to receive their blessing. (Related: More coverage of the papal transition)

“The fact that he asked to pray a blessing on him showed a certain simplicity and humility that I think was genuine,” Archbishop Tobin said. “In at least the times that I’ve met him, he had no airs or pretensions about himself.”

Archbishop Tobin also noted that the new pope was previously a member of the Society of Jesus, an order known as the Jesuits, which operates Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis.

“I hope they’ll invite Pope Francis to visit it quickly,” he said with a laugh.

Archbishop Tobin also reflected on the fact that Pope Francis is the first pontiff from the New World in general and Latin America in particular.

He said this could bring enthusiasm to his ministry.

“In Latin America, there’s a certain vibrancy in the Church, despite all the problems the Church faces there,” Archbishop Tobin said. “John Paul II used to call Latin America, ‘el continente de esperanza,’ the continent of hope. And there is a certain hope there because of the vitality of the Church there. So he’s not going to come in kind of moping with a defeatist attitude. He’s coming from a very vibrant [Church].”

The relevance of a Latin American pope will have an effect on many Catholics in central and southern Indiana, Archbishop Tobin said.

“I think an immediate effect on people here in Indiana is going to be, ‘Oh my gosh, there’s a pope that speaks my mother tongue,’ ” Archbishop Tobin said. “That’s going to be an interesting effect on the archdiocese because we have a lot of people whose mother tongue is Spanish.”

Beyond simply appealing to Latino Catholics, Archbishop Tobin saw an emphasis on the universality of the Church in his election.

“I think the election of somebody who is from Latin America, who’s not a European, is a reminder of what Catholic means,” he said. “Catholic, in its original Greek sense, means ‘universal.’

“My hope is that Pope Francis will bring a certain universality to the Church, and remind us that it is a big tent. It’s open to all nations. That’s the glory of Christianity.”

The new pope also created another papal first by being the first pontiff to choose the name “Francis” as his papal name.

While waiting to hear from the pontiff himself as to why he chose that name, Archbishop Tobin suspect that it had to do with St. Francis of Assisi’s “mystical experience” of Christ telling him to “rebuild my Church.”

Archbishop Tobin later said the new pope’s choice of name might relate to the Church’s priority on the new evangelization and re-enlivening the faith in areas where it was once a vital force in society, but is now struggling.

“Francis is seen as one of the great preachers of the Gospel,” Archbishop Tobin said. “Sometimes it’s attributed to him, but I think it’s a little inaccurate, that he said ‘Preach the Gospel at all times, but use words when necessary.’ In other words, walk the talk.

He also emphasized that Francis is an important European saint.

“Western Europe is certainly an area of great concern for the leadership of the Church, not only the Catholic Church,” Archbishop Tobin said, “but [other] churches and synagogues are losing any relevance in the life of many people.”

Archbishop Tobin does not plan on traveling to Rome for Pope Francis’ inaugural Mass, but looks forward to receiving his pallium, a symbol of the pastoral care for the people of God that he shares with the pope, on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul on June 29 in Rome. †

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