News Column

Ventura County Catholics Hope the New Pope Brings a Fresh Perspective

March 14, 2013

Cheri Carlson

The words shadowed the smile that emerged when Ernestina Ramirez learned Jorge Mario Bergoglio -- Pope Francis -- comes from Argentina.

"Papa Latino," she said at St. Anthony's Catholic Church in Oxnard, her smile broadening.

The pope, born to Italian immigrants, is the first from Latin America. To Ramirez's daughter -- Juliana Ramirez-Cid -- that feels like a connection.

"As we are Hispanics and knowing that we have a Hispanic pope," said the Oxnard bookkeeper, stumbling to explain her feelings before finding the right word. "Happy ... I'm speechless."

To some, the selection of a pope from the Americas -- another first -- seems a sign of respect.

"It means there's some recognition of the number of Latinos in the world and the need to reach out spiritually to that," said Daniel Delgado, the parish's musical director.

At St. Anthony's, news of the pope came at a monthly school Mass because a teacher's phone was armed with an app called PopeAlarm. Others learned the news through pealing church bells or a glimpse of the gold and white bunting on the door of San Buenaventura Mission in Ventura.

At St. Jude the Apostle Catholic Community, a Westlake Village parish, the news came in a midday Mass.

"White smoke poured out of the Vatican," Deacon Joe Manion told parishioners. "We have a new pope."

When parishioners learned he was from Argentina, they applauded loudly.

"I think it's good to have someone from South America," said Gemma Marrone of Westlake Village. "It will give us a new perspective of a different part of the world."

By the time Marrone walked out of the church, she had used her phone to find Pope Francis' photo online.

She said she hopes he will be close to the people and a good communicator -- something she thinks the Catholic church had with John Paul II and needs to continue. Then she headed home, back to the news coverage.

"I had to tear myself away to come here," she said.

Staff at Padre Serra Parish in Camarillo crowded into an office Wednesday watching as the newly named pope addressed the crowd in Rome.

"I would say that it was a little bit of a party," said the Rev. Patrick Mullen. "We were getting phone calls from outside from very involved parishioners. We had one man who's out on the base and had to stay at work, but wanted us to call him right back to let him know what we heard."

Mullen was moved as he watched Pope Francis ask for prayers before giving the crowd a benediction.

"There's something very touching about his willingness to ask for prayers before he gives a blessing," Mullen said.

Some see humility. Some hope Francis brings change. Manny Vega of Oxnard, who alleges he was molested by a priest as an altar boy, wants the new pope to take a critical look at clergy abuse and deal with it differently.

"I don't think there's really ever been transparency with the sexual abuse cases," he said. "I think that's what all of the victims for the most part want: The truth."

Ann Long, 82, of Westlake Village, said she hopes the new leader will consider issues like ordaining female priests or allowing priests to get married.

"Some of the more liberal ideas should come forward," she said.

Frank Reveles, 65, of Oxnard was surprised the pope had been chosen so quickly. A Catholic, Reveles said he wasn't as concerned about where the man came from, instead focusing on what he wants Francis to do.

"He's got to take care of all these bad priests," he said. "I really don't care who it is as long as they clean up."

Brian Kelly, dean at Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, lauded the choice of the first pope from Latin America.

"He is someone not unfamiliar with Rome. That's important because he's going to be the bishop of Rome," Kelly said. "But he also has to be the pope for the entire Catholic world."

When the news broke that white smoke was billowing out of the chimney, Kelly was sitting in his office. He went to the chapel to help students ring the bells before heading to the chaplain's residence that houses the campus's one television.

"It was jampacked with students who were cheering and stamping," Kelly said. "I stayed in there and waited and watched with them until we found out who he was, and we got to see him and listen to him."

Kelly said it's difficult to say exactly what led to the quick selection process since the cardinals must take an oath of secrecy. It couldn't have happened as quickly if there was real dissension, he said.

"I take that as a very good sign. They know who he is. He's been around for awhile. And, I guess they like what they saw," Kelly said. "That suggests to me that he's got their confidence and that's a reason for us to be confident."

Rose Marie Garcia of Ventura is 74 and has attended church at San Buenaventura Mission her entire life. She wants people to unite behind the new pope. She offered her own wish list for Francis.



Source: (c)2013 Ventura County Star (Camarillo, Calif.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.


Story Tools






HispanicBusiness.com Facebook Linkedin Twitter RSS Feed Email Alerts & Newsletters