Argentina's Jorge Mario Bergoglio, elected Pope Francis I
•Obama, Mark, Ekweremadu, Obi hail emergence
Paul Ohia in Lagos and Paul Obi in London with agency report
An Argentine former cardinal, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, emerged the new Pope yesterday and immediately called for “brotherhood” in the Roman Catholic Church.
Bergoglio, 76, who took the name, Pope Francis I, also prayed for “Pope Emeritus” Benedict XVI in his first speech upon being elected pontiff by the papal conclave of 115 cardinals.
His election as the 266th Pope in the Catholic Church’s 2,000-year history was historic as he emerged the first Pope from Latin America in the church’s annals.
He was named leader of some 1.2 billion Catholics after five rounds of voting in the Vatican – one more than when his predecessor, Benedict XVI, who resigned in February, was elected in 2005.
The Pope said fellow cardinals “went to the other end of the world” to find a new pope.
His election, which was heralded by white smoke that billowed from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, drew applause from Catholic worshippers worldwide.
United States President Barack Obama, Senate President David Mark, his deputy, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, and Anambra State Governor Mr. Peter Obi, all expressed joy at the news of Bergoglio’s election as the Pope.
After the appearance of the white smoke that signalled his election, the new Pope appeared on the balcony an hour later to introduce himself and salute the agitated crowd urging them to pray for him.
“I offer my blessing to you and the whole world. I would like to thank you for your embrace; also to the bishops, thank you very much.
“It seems my brother cardinals went almost to the end of the world to choose a pope.
“First and foremost, I would like to pray for our emeritus pope, Benedict XVI. Let us all pray together so that he’s blessed by the Lord and guarded,” the Pope said.
Pope Francis I, the son of a railway worker, spent nearly his entire life in Argentina where he served as the Archbishop of Buenos Aires.
A critic of Argentina’s government policies on abortion and gay rights, the new pope was said to be the runner-up to Benedict XVI in the 2005 papal election.
He is a moderate known for his strong negotiating skills as well as a readiness to challenge powerful interests, Reuters reported.
He is a modest man from a middle class family who has shunned the trappings of office and was content to travel by bus.
Described by his biographer as a balancing force, the Pope has monk-like habits, is media shy and deeply concerned about the social inequalities rife in his homeland and elsewhere in Latin America.
His emergence is seen as a calculative step by the College of Cardinals to look towards the developing world where the church is growing astronomically.
The decision to root for Bergoglio at the expense of Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan may not be unconnected with the need to hold the church’s doctrines firmly, given the erosion of moral values in the west, especially in America and Europe where the church has been facing serial sex scandals.
Born December 17, 1936 to a railway worker, Bergoglio was ordained a Catholic priest in 1969 and later joined the Jesuit Society. He obtained his degrees in Philosophy from Colegio Maximo in San Miguel.
Reacting to the papal election, Mark said his emergence was a divine rapid response to yearnings of the Catholic faithful and canvassed support for his papacy.
In a statement by his media aide Kola Ologbondiyan, Mark hailed the successful election of the new Pope, describing it as God's will.
Mark said: “God has once gain shown the world that He is the Lord that knows the heart’s desire of His people. He has once again shown the world His mercy. His Holiness, Pope Francis’ emergence came faster than many had expected. We paise the Lord. This is the sign that God answers prayers as of old.”
Ekweremadu congratulated the Catholic Church on the emergence of Pope Francis I. He urged the new leader of the church to build on the legacies of his predecessors and help the world overcome challenges of terrorism, immorality and hate.
“The new Pope emerged at a time of immense global challenges and the world looks up to him to lead the way in the search for global peace, prosperity and moral re-armament," Ekweremadu said in a statement by his media aide, Mr. Uche Anichukwu.
While joining the world to welcome the election of the new Pope, the Anambra State Governor Obi described it as the continuation of the fulfilment of Christ to his church, stating that the gate of hell shall not prevail against it.
According to him, the emergence of the Pope was the triumph of a process that holds a lesson for Nigeria.
He said: “One vital lesson that Nigerians should draw from it is that the process of being elected into any position is far more fundamental than what the person elected does thereafter.”
United States President Obama and the European Union (EU) congratulated the Catholic Church on the election of the Pope.
Obama, in his statement, said: “On behalf of the American people, Michelle and I offer our warm wishes to His Holiness Pope Francis as he ascends to the Chair of Saint Peter and begins his papacy.
“As a champion of the poor and the most vulnerable among us, he carries forth the message of love and compassion that has inspired the world for more than two thousand years—that in each other we see the face of God.
“Just as I appreciated our work with Pope (Emeritus) Benedict XVI, I look forward to working with His Holiness to advance peace, security and dignity for our fellow human beings, regardless of their faith.“
The EU, in a joint statement by the EU President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso said: “We wish you a long and blessed Pontificate, which will allow your Holiness and the Catholic Church to defend and promote the fundamental values of peace, solidarity and human dignity.
“We are convinced that your Holiness will continue to further with determination and strength the work of your predecessors by bringing the world’s people and religions closer together.”