ALL Christians should welcome the election of Pope Francis, and
pray for him, a senior Church of England bishop has said. The
Bishop of Guildford, the Rt Revd Christopher Hill, predicted that
the Argentinian pontiff would usher in a "different style" of
papacy, with a greater emphasis on the position of the bishop as a
Bishop Hill, chairman of the Council for Christian Unity and a
member of ARCIC (the Anglican-Roman Catholic International
Commission), said: "His reputation for pastoral care and
simplicity, following St Francis, as well as his concern for
economic justice, will endear him to Anglicans throughout the
world, not least our own Archbishop Justin."
The "pastoral stress" of the new Pope's ministry pointed to a
"fundamental theological principle", Bishop Hill said. "The
universal Primate, whom some Anglicans and many other Christians
are beginning to recognise, is still the bishop of a local church,
a bishop of the Church, not a single bishop over the Church. But
the task before Pope Francis is immense. All Christians should pray
The Archbishop of Canterbury also wished Pope Francis "every
blessing in the enormous responsibilities that he has assumed". He
called the new pontiff "a compassionate pastor of real stature, who
has served the poor in Latin America, and whose simplicity and
holiness of life is remarkable".
The General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, the Revd
Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, said that the election of the new Pope was "a
turning point in the life of the Roman Catholic Church. Today, the
vast majority of Christians live in the Global South. The growth of
Christianity in the South is likely to continue. It is in this
context that we will move forward, working together."
The Anglican Bishop of Argentina and a former Presiding Bishop
of the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone, the Rt Revd Greg
Venables, described Cardinal Bergoglio's election as "an inspired
choice". "Many are asking me what he is really like," he said. "He
is much more of a Christian, Christ-centred and Spirit-filled, than
a mere churchman. He believes the Bible as it is written." He told
the Anglican Communion News Service: "He is consistently humble and
wise, outstandingly gifted yet a common man. He is no fool, and
speaks out very quietly yet clearly when necessary."
An Episcopalian priest in Buenos Aires, the Revd Thomas
Mansella, said: "He is very ecumenical - especially with us
Anglicans - and a man of prayer and great spirituality. He has
spoken frequently for social justice. But, because he has condemned
the current Argentinian official corruption, he is not liked by the
powers that be. So, perhaps by strong influence, he will be a force
to clean up the Roman curia."
In the United States, the Presiding Bishop, Dr Katharine
Jefferts Schori, said that the Episcopal Church would pray for the
new Bishop of Rome, "and for the possibility of constructive
dialogue and co-operation between our Churches".
It has emerged that many Roman Catholic bishops in the UK knew
little about Pope Francis before his election on 14 March. Those
who did not recognise the name of the Cardinal include the
Archbishop of Southwark and vice-president of the Catholic Bishops'
Conference of England and Wales, the Most Revd Peter Smith. "When
the words came, I, like many others, then spent some moments
working out who had been chosen," he said.
A member of the British Province of the Society of Jesus, Fr
Chris Chatteris, expressed his surprise that a member of his order
had been elected Pope. "History shows that the relationship between
Jesuits and pope has often been a rocky one," he said. "In the 18th
century, Pope Clement XIV went as far as suppressing the Jesuit
order. It was this tricky history that gave rise to the received
wisdom that there would never be a Jesuit Pope. But now there
The Roman Catholic press echoed the surprise at the election of
Cardinal Bergoglio. The editor of The Catholic
Herald, Luke Coppen, admitted: "Like other commentators, we
failed to notice Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio's emergence as a
leading candidate at this year's conclave: he was the very last
name on our long list of 'other possible papabili'."
The editor of The Tablet, Catherine Pepinster, used her
editorial last week to call for a new style of papacy, principally
with power decentralised. "The Pope is not the Church; nor is the
Vatican a head office," she wrote. "St Peter was not the only
Apostle, nor did his wishes always prevail.
"Pope Francis has to be a teacher and confirmer of the faith,
but also a leader who must never again let the institutional
machinery that surrounds him distract attention from the message he
has to preach."