The Catholic community in the CNMI, through the Diocese of Chalan Kanoa, joined the rest of the Catholic faithful around the world in welcoming the election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio as the new pope.
Rev. Fr. Ryan P. Jimenez, apostolic administrator for the diocese, said in an email yesterday that he is happy and filled with a deep sense of gratitude that the papal conclave-the college of cardinals that elected the pope-was able to finish this significant task for the Catholic faithful.
Bergoglio, who joined the conclave as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, became the first Latin American and Jesuit to be elected pontiff following the stunning resignation of Pope Benedict XVI last month. He has chosen the name of Pope Francis.
Guam Delegate Madeleine Z. Bordallo (D-GU) also welcomed Pope Francis' election as the Holy Father of the Catholic Church, which she said is a joyous and momentous occasion.
“The selection of the first Latin American and Jesuit pope is historic and speaks to the universality of the Catholic Church. As a cardinal, Pope Francis was known for his humility and his work on behalf of the poor and those suffering and in need,” she said in a statement.
Jimenez disclosed that he was up since 4am yesterday to follow conclave updates. He was awake when the 76-year-old Bergoglio delivered his first blessing Wednesday morning from the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at 5am local time, allowing Jimenez to mention the good news during the 6am Eucharistic Mass he officiated at the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral in Chalan Kanoa.
“I thank God for Pope Francis as the 266th successor of St. Peter,” Jimenez said.
Jimenez said the new pope, who embraced simplicity and faith in his life and ministry, sends a “clear message” in his shepherding role with his chosen name, reaching out to the poor and disadvantaged like what St. Francis of Assisi, his namesake, did.
“Coming from Latin America, he knows and understands the plight of the poor and the oppressed,” he told Saipan Tribune.
Jimenez said he is also pleased to have a Jesuit serve at the helm of the Catholic Church.
“Although Jesuits are not known for taking high positions in the church, they are known for their work in education,” said Jimenez. “He is intellectually gifted and has a heart of a true shepherd guiding his flock. He is down-to-earth and very pastoral in his approach to ministry.”
Jimenez urged the Catholic faithful in the CNMI to pray that another good news will arrive soon in the form of a new bishop who will lead the diocese.
The Northern Marianas is entering its fourth year of not having a bishop following the resignation in April 2009 of Bishop Emeritus Tomas Camacho.
“While we don't really know when will this happen, I ask our parishioners to continue to pray for this intention,” said Jimenez.