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Haverhill

March 14, 2013

'He's still very much one of us'

Locals praise choice of 'humble' man as new pope

Local Catholics say they believe the Holy Spirit illuminated the hearts of the cardinals in the conclave when they chose Argentina’s Jorge Mario Bergoglio as the new pope.

Bergoglio, 76, archbishop of Buenos Aires, made history by becoming the first non-European pope in more than 1,200 years and the first member of the Jesuit order to lead the Catholic Church. He chose the name Francis, after St. Francis of Assisi, and will be known as Pope Francis I.

“Long live my homeland,” said 88-year-old Ester Aparicio, who moved to the United States from Argentina 38 years ago. “This is such a momentous time for me and my countrymen.”

Aparicio believed the front-runner for pope was Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley. She prayed “the best man win.” Drinking tea and holding an Argentinian flag, she said “I haven’t stopped smiling since I found out.”

The Rev. John Michalowski, pastor of Sts. Mary and Joseph Parish in Salem, N.H. and a Jesuit priest, said he was surprised when a member of his order was chosen. He said Jesuits take a vow of not seeking ecclesiastical honor.

“He’s clearly very much dedicated to the poor as Jesus was,” Michalowski said. “He is a man of simplicity, a humble servant whose goal is to reach out and care for the poor.”

When named archbishop of Argentina, Bergoglio refused to live in the luxurious mansion in Buenos Aires he was entitled to. Instead, he chose to live in a small apartment. He drives himself or takes public transportation instead of having a driver. He prepares all his own meals.

Michalowski said he was moved by Bergoglio’s speech when he greeted the faithful gathered at St. Peter’s Square yesterday and asked them to pray for him.

“When people are chosen for some high honor they think they are above you. By this gesture, he said he’s still very much one of us. I was very touched by that,” Michalowski said.

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