New Pope Stirs Excitement among the Faithful

Barrington M. Salmon | 3/20/2013, 10 a.m.

Across the Catholic world, the new pope has excited the faithful and triggered an outpouring of love and affection for the man who was chosen on March 12, the second day of the papal conclave.

Sister Priscilla Busingye crystallizes the euphoria that has enveloped Catholics at the elevation of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio to become the church's 266th pontiff.

The Ugandan native broke out into a broad smile.

"Oh, it was great news, my heart felt ... it was like a big celebration in my heart," said Busingye, a doctor who was in Washington to attend a health conference. "God inspired [Pope] Benedict to resign so that Francis could become pope. I really feel great."

"I was welcomed here by this news," said Busingye, who is a member of the order of the Daughters of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus in Uganda. "God has spoken so loudly. He wants the nations to focus on Christian values."

Bergoglio took the name of Francis, in homage to St. Francis of Assisi, as well as to St. Francis Xavier, himself a Jesuit and servant of the poor.

While serving in Argentina, the 76-year-old pope gained a reputation as an austere man who lived in a modest apartment, cooked his own food, used public transportation routinely and kissed and washed the feet of AIDS patients and drug addicts. And in the week since his selection, he, by his actions, has the laity enthralled with his humility, his simplicity and a message that suggests a new focus. The pope is the first Jesuit and the first pope chosen from the Americas, although his father was an Italian who emigrated to Buenos Aires in the 1930s.

While standing on the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica, the pope greeted the crowd in a soft-spoken voice, asked them to pray for his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI, led them in prayer and then asked them to pray for him.

"Now let us begin the journey," he said after a moment of silent prayer.

In his first full day as pontiff, the pope began with prayer at St. Mary Major Church before traveling personally to the clergy hotel to pay his bill.

Already, he has eschewed the trappings of office by wearing a simple white cassock without the red papal cape and a pectoral cross he wore while he was a bishop and the archbishop of Buenos Aires. And on Sunday after delivering his first Angelus - the noon blessing - he stunned onlookers by stepping outside Sant'Anna Gate onto the street to greet the faithful and other well-wishers.

Pope Francis was formally installed in a ceremony at the Vatican Tuesday morning.

Pope Francis inherits a church of 1.2 billion followers mired in scandal after more than a decade of revelations of priests' molesting children and young people and a cover-up by the church hierarchy that has infuriated parishioners and other critics. He faces a fractious, deeply divided congregation; an entrenched, anachronistic bureaucracy; Machiavellian political intrigue; and an institution with entangled finances and reputed financial ties to the Mafia. He must find a bridge between conservative elements and more liberal factions of the hierarchy and the church, work to attract new adherents, but more importantly he has to figure out how to help the church find its way back to skeptical and turned-off Catholics who are no longer part of the church.