Pope Francis’ preference for taking the bus and cooking his own food — and the fact he’s the first chosen from outside Europe in more than a millennium — is being warmly received in the Quad-Cities.
Davenport Diocese Bishop Martin Amos was touched Wednesday when Francis, in his first public statement as pope, asked people gathered in St. Peter’s Square to pray for him.
“It’s a humbling moment,” Amos said. “I don’t think I’ve seen anyone do that, not an elected pope giving his first blessing to the world.”
The 76-year-old archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Bergoglio took the name Francis as a nod to simplicity, Amos said.
“St. Francis (of Assisi) gave up everything to live a life of poverty,” Amos said. “For us in the United States, we have such a consumer mentality. To have a holy father go the other way, it’ll be interesting what he ends up doing with that.”
The Rev. Tom Gibson, pastor of the largely Hispanic congregation at St. Mary’s Church in Moline, said he was “thrilled” to have the new pope come from Latin America.
“This is the universal church,” Gibson said.
Choosing the name Francis sends the message that this pope wants to reach out to the Catholic faithful as well as non-believers and those who have fallen away, Gibson said.
“Francisco is a symbol of peace throughout the world,” he said of the 13th century saint. “He’s a man of every sort of people, lepers and the well-off. He was universally loved by people.”
St. Francis often is depicted in paintings and statues in a nature setting and with animals. “He sought to find God’s presence in creation,” Gibson said.
The Rev. Chuck Adam, director of campus ministry at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, considers the new pope a “very humble man.”
“He takes the bus rather than being chauffeured and he cooks for himself,” Adam said of Bergoglio’s reputation in Argentina. “He takes the gospel message of Jesus — serve rather than be served — very seriously.”
Will the new pope use Twitter, as Pope Benedict XVI had begun to do months before he resigned?
Gibson said that while it appears social media doesn’t coincide with Pope Francis’ preference for simplicity, he expects the Vatican will continue tweeting.
“He seeks a return to the simple, Catholic values of generosity, love of people and service,” Gibson said. “Those are easy to forget in a world of Facebook, Twitter and email, which tend to depersonalize.”
Gibson said his parish of 1,500 families — 75 percent of them Hispanic — likely will have some kind of celebration for the new pope this spring.
As the Spanish-speaking Catholic population continues to be among the largest and fastest growing in the world, Gibson said the need for Hispanic priests is even greater.
His parish is in the Peoria Diocese, which has only seven Spanish-speaking priests, including one Hispanic priest, he said.
Bishop Daniel Jenky of the Peoria Diocese, said: “The whole church has been praying that the Holy Spirit would guide the cardinals. For somebody like me, it’s a moment when God has spoken through those cardinals.”
Amos said he received numerous emails and text messages Wednesday from Catholics in the diocese after the pope was announced and described the general mood of the messages as “excited.”
“They’ve done a good job electing him,” Amos said. “He’s got a lot of the qualities people are looking for.”
Amos is planning to lead a pilgrimage to the Vatican in September, where he hopes to meet the new pope.
“I’ll tell him that the Diocese of Davenport keeps him in our prayers,” he said.