FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 13, 2013
Statement by Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain
On the election of Pope Francis
Almost 35 years ago, October 16, 1978, I had the privilege of being in St. Peter’s Square when the same scene unfolded at the election of Pope John Paul II. Great excitement surrounded me that night, and as the pontificate of now Blessed John Paul II unfolded, we learned why such enthusiasm was warranted. Though traveling in Tennessee the day Pope Benedict XVI was elected, I nonetheless felt the same enthusiasm as reports streamed across the television. Watching the announcement unfold this morning, I was again filled with excitement, awe and hope in God. We in the United States may not yet know much about Pope Francis, but as with our previous popes the coming years will reveal the gift God has given us.
The election of a new pope is an act of faith on the part of the cardinals, because they have placed their hope in God to guide them. For me as an archbishop and for Catholics everywhere, receiving a new pope means that God has been once again faithful to his promise that he would always provide a shepherd for the church, a successor to St. Peter, a bishop of Rome, the first pastor of the universal church. His choice of the name Francis signals that he strives to be a man of humility and love for the poor, and the fact that he asked the hundreds of thousand standing before him to pray for him further underscores his humility. He told those gathered that he is there to evangelize the City of Rome; that is the prime role of every bishop — to proclaim the good news of Christ.
It is natural that we will all want to know more about our new pope, his personality, his experience, and his family. Our previous popes have brought with them a wealth of background that made them who they were. But more than all of that, it is important that Catholics understand the election of a new pope as a spiritual event that is filled with joy and hope. Not even knowing who he would be, I began praying for him weeks ago.