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St. Thomas Community Joyful for Pope Francis

St. Thomas Community Joyful for Pope FrancisAs “Habemus Papam” was proclaimed from the balcony of St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City, the University of St. Thomas community waited with anticipation and celebrated the announcement of the new Pope Francis.

As many as 50 students, staff and alumni gathered in the Old Bookstore in Crooker Center and others gathered in small groups around St. Thomas.

The Rev. Michael Buentello, CSB, described a feeling of excitement on campus, one “filled with great jubilation.”

“It was as if the students were waiting for a rock star to come on stage,” he said. “The movement of the curtain elicited great joy – ‘There’s the Holy Father, our spiritual father for all of us on earth.’ It was a joyous moment, a happy moment for all of us.”

Junior Jonathan Cruz, a biology student, brought the Vatican flag into the Old Bookstore for the occasion, and he said he was glad to be able to witness history on UST’s Catholic campus.

“I got to hear the bells ring on campus for more than five minutes,” Cruz said. “People were celebrating. They were yelling, ‘We have a pope!’ and people started to hug each other. I don’t think people elsewhere would get to experience that in the same way as someone on a Catholic campus would.”

UST President Dr. Robert Ivany also expressed the occasion as joyful and hopeful.

“It’s joyful that we have a wonderful shepherd to lead our Church, who is so well respected by all those who know him, and hopeful that he will continue to lead us with renewed vigor, fresh insights and a deep love of our Lord,” Ivany said.

Pope Francis, previously known as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, archbishop of Buenos Aires, is the first non-European leader of the Church in more than 1,200 years.

“The election of a pontiff from Argentina emphasizes the universality of our Church, not only the holiness of the new pontiff, but the awareness of the importance of Latin America,” Ivany said.

Father Buentello addressed the significance of having someone from the New World sitting on the chair of St. Peter in Rome.

“He will bring a new set of eyes to the issues facing the Church,” Father Buentello said. “These are eyes that were nurtured in South America.”

Sarah Ashour, sophomore elementary education major who is studying theology, said she loves the Pope’s new name, Francis.

“I just think about St. Francis and how God wanted him to rebuild the Church,” Ashour said. “This is springtime for the Church, a renewal for the New Evangelization.”

Ashour said she heard about the white smoke from a friend’s Pope Alarm text message, coordinated by Fellowship of Catholic University Students so as soon as the white smoke happened, no one would miss the announcement. She had a 2 p.m. prayer time in the Chapel of St. Basil for adoration, so she didn’t get to hear the announcement live, but she was still excited.

“I’ve been praying about it for a while now – praying for the cardinals, praying for the next pope,” she said.

She said she hopes the news of the new pope will help people grow more in the authentic faith of the Church.

Father Buentello said the new pope signifies the permanency of the Church, and though the Pope is a humble man, the world looks forward to getting to know him. 

“We want to know him, his style, we want to hear him speak, we want to see him celebrate Mass,” Father Buentello said. “We want to know him, and given his background, I think he will be very accessible for us to get to know him.”