The leader of Philadelphia-area Catholics called Pope Francis a “wonderful” choice for the Church.
Archbishop Charles Chaput said Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, the former Archbishop of Buenos Aires and a Jesuit, is a priest of extraordinary intellect. Still, his election was a surprise.
“I don’t think he was on anybody’s top three list,” Chaput said shortly after the new pope greeted well-wishers in Rome. “Those of us who are believers believe that the election was guided by the Holy Spirit who surprised us by an usual pick.”
When asked about the challenges the pope will face as head of the scandal-riddled Catholic Church, Chaput cautioned against any hasty action.
“I think it’s really important for the pope to take his time, make good, positive, prudent judgments, and not be rushed into trying to solve problems that others tell him exist,” Chaput said.
The new pope is the first from the Americas, a fact Chaput believes will resonate with area Catholics, especially Hispanic Catholics.
“The Catholic Church sees America as one continent rather than two,” Chaput said. “So to have somebody from outside Europe, someone from our continent, would be very pleasing to people.”
Chaput has a gift from the new pope on his desk — a portrait of the Virgin Mary that Chaput received when the two men met in 1997.
Chaput said he will write to the new pope Thursday about the World Meeting of Families to be held in Philadelphia in 2015.
The Pope traditionally attends that event.
The 76-year-old is not only the first Latin American pope, but also the first pope elected from the Jesuit order.