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Renee Roberts                             Follow East Palo Alto Today on
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Tuesday, March 19, 2013         
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Congresswoman Anna G. Eshoo (D-Palo Alto) joined Vice President Joe Biden in representing the U.S. delegation in Rome for the inaugural mass conducted by Pope Francis, the newly elected head of the Roman Catholic Church.

The special mass was held at the Vatican on March 19. Eshoo said that it was a high honor for her to be in the U. S. delegation.

Pope Francis’ selection to replace Pope Benedict as the head of the Catholic Church was praised by Catholics around the world.

But, like many others throughout the world, Father Lawrence Goode, the leader of the St. Francis of Assisi Church in East Palo Alto, had not heard of Pope Francis before his appointment by the College of Cardinals.

Father Goode said, “When we heard his name, it was not at all familiar, no one in our house had even heard of him. We are just now getting to know him. And what we've heard of him we like. What we've seen of him, we also like. All I can tell you is very superficial. The choice of his name for example, Francis, we especially like."

The Cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church broke Europe's millennium-long stranglehold on the papacy and astonished the Catholic world, when they elected Jesuit Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina as the 266th pope on March 13.

The choice of Bergoglio, on the second day of deliberations by the papal conclave in the Sistine Chapel, surprised many, including Father Goode.

“The fact that he is from a Latin American country speaks volumes to our Latin parishioners. The fact that he is a non-European, for the first time, seems to be recognition that the Church in the New World is much more alive than in the Old World. I thought that he had to be younger than he is but apparently although he has only one lung his health must be ok,” Father Goode said.

Father Goode’s statement, referring to Pope Francis’ Latin American roots, reflected the sentiments of various news commentators, who expressed the feeling that Pope Francis’ selection opened up a direct connection to the Southern Hemisphere.

Pope Francis ascended to the papacy at a critical juncture for the Catholic Church, since it is a time when secularism and competing faiths are depleting the church’s ranks around the world. With the Catholic Church still struggling with claims of child molestation, many Catholics are looking to the pope’s selection as a sign of hope. They seem to be seeking a renewed vision for the church that mixes the traditional church tenets with a recognition that times are changing.

Even the name Francis, which the new pope took to honor St. Francis of Assisi, is cited as a good sign and as a sign of change, since St. Francis, was a rich man’s son who took a vow of poverty in 13th-century Italy. The name has become a symbol of humility.

In many ways, Pope Francis has already lived up to his namesake. He is known back in Argentina for living among the poor and he is described as someone who was not afraid to socialize and move among those whom others had turned their backs on.

News reports said that single mothers, prostitutes, drug addicts and people with HIV/AIDS didn’t deter Cardinal Bergoglio from frequenting the “misery villages.”

Even after his selection to his new role, Pope Francis, has already impressed some of his followers by continuing to live in the same hotel with the other cardinals and by paying his own hotel bill.

The results of a new poll, which can be seen here, show that the majority of U.S. Catholics are happy with Pope Francis’ selection.

In referring to the pope’s humility and style, Father Goode said, “We call the Pope, The Vicar Of Christ--- one who represents Christ to the Catholic world and maybe even beyond our world. I think he will do that well from what I have heard of him and read about him. He apparently cooked his own food and took public transportation and likes to be around the poor and needy. If that's true, I think we have a winner. Our parishioners and even people who are not of our faith all seen very excited about the new pope. I haven't had to ask [what people think of him]. They are the ones who bring it up,” Father Goode said.

If you'd like to have more information about the St. Francis of Assisi Church in East Palo Alto, you can go to the church's website at  http://www.sfarchdiocese.org/parishes/san-mateo-county/east-palo-alto---st-francis-of-assisi. Church information is available in both English and Spanish.


Renee Roberts, the author of this article, can be reached at EPA Today by emailing epatoday@epatoday.org