OGDEN — Even a Catholic girl who is barely 3 years old could understand the significance of Pope Francis being welcomed for the first time by members of the Roman Catholic Church this week.
“She picked up a cross and took it up to the TV and held it up as the pope was first introduced,” Jon Kasper, of Ogden, said of his daughter, Catherine.
“We’ve tried to teach her the sign of the cross,” he said. “Hopefully, he’ll be the pope for a while. He’ll be the first pope she’ll remember.”
Local Catholics this week expressed their approval of Francis.
Kasper said he was excited to see Francis not only become the first pope by that name but the first one since the eighth century to not come from a European country, and the first ever to be a Jesuit priest.
Other area Catholics also expressed their approval for the first South American pope.
“There is such a growing population of Hispanic people in the church,” said Sister Luke Hoschette, of Mount Benedict Monastery in South Ogden. “It will be encouraging for them to know that someone of their own will be represented.”
Hoschette said she appreciated Francis’ humility. He is named for a saint known for administering to the poor.
“Knowing that there are so many poor and suffering people of the world, he seems to identify with them in a special way,” she said.
“I don’t think humility ever puts people off. I don’t think the rich people will be put off by the fact that he lives in the lifestyle that he does.”
The Rev. Kenneth Vialpando, of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Ogden, expressed similar feelings, saying that with roughly 42 percent of Catholics worldwide being Hispanic, the new pope will be relatable to many members of the church universally.
Mary Iverson, of Layton, said she also appreciates the new pontiff’s humility.
“I think he is a humble, holy man. He asked the people if they could pray for him. He bent over and the whole place was in silent prayer,” she said of the moments following the pope’s first introduction.
“Somebody from South America can understand poverty better than somebody from Europe and help out their people,” said Andy McCrady, of Uintah. “He can serve better and understand the problems of the poor.”
McCrady also said he is glad to see someone from this hemisphere become the head of the church.
Allan Lipman, of Ogden, thinks the fact that Francis comes from South America shows progression of the church.
“It speaks for coming into the 20th century,” he said. “I think it speaks to those, to the outside, that we are progressive and can handle today’s problems.”
He also said he is fond of Francis’ Jesuit background.
”That’s really why we sent our kids to St. Joseph’s High School, because they had Jesuits.”
The Jesuits, he said, “are well-educated and good teachers.”
Sister Mary Zenzen, of Mount Benedict Monastery, said she is impressed with the speed with which Francis was chosen.
“I am pleased and surprised that the conclave moved so quickly,” she said, noting she had heard since the announcement that Francis was a likely person to take the helm of the church in the previous conclave.
“He was not so unknown to the rest of the cardinals as he was to the rest of us,” Zenzen said.
“Given my faith that the Spirit was with the process and will continue to be with him, I look forward to his ministry.”