By Ben Johnson
Members of the pro-life and pro-family community say they are overjoyed at the selection of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio as the new Pope of the Roman Catholic Chuch.
As LifeSiteNews reported in 2007, the new pope, Francis, has called abortion the “death penalty” for the unborn. He has also taken a strong stance in favor of the natural family in Argentina. He called gay marriage “a destructive pretension against the plan of God" and “a machination of the Father of Lies." At the same time, in a story that is being much-repeated today, Pope Francis demonstrated his compassion when he visited a hospice on Holy Thursday where he kissed and washed the feet of 12 patients suffering from AIDS, a disease that is often associated with homosexuality.
That legacy heartened pro-life and pro-family activists across the country.
“During him time as Archbishop of Buenos Aires Jorge Mario Bergoglio was a stalwart defender of the sanctity of all innocent human life,” Michael New of National Review told LifeSiteNews.com.
“On September 1, 2009 – the feast day of St. Raimondo Nonnato, the patron of expectant mothers and the unborn – Cardinal Bergoglio celebrated Mass in Buenos Aires. He encouraged attendees to defend life from conception to its natural end. He also added that to really promote the culture of life means also supporting the existence of these unborn children, in all phases of their childhood.”
“I pray that Pope Francis I inspires, not only Catholics, but people of all faiths to promote and defend the culture of life,” New said.
EWTN radio's Al Kresta told LifeSiteNews.com that Pope Francis' “extraordinary theological training” will allow him to serve as “a theologian in the best sense of the word.”
Pope Francis “has had to live through a series of conflicts within the Jesuit order over the last generation,” Kresta noted. “He will model for us a way of peace and a way of reconciliation, not through compromise, but he'll pursue Catholic reconciliation along the lines of sacrifice as Francis did.”
His choice of the name Francis – after St. Francis of Assissi – rang a hopeful chord in many of the faithful.
“We now welcome Pope Francis I, who we pray to God follows in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi,” Judie Brown, president of American Life League and three-time appointee to the Pontifical Academy for Life, said. “Recall that Christ said to St. Francis, 'Rebuild my Church!' This is the very challenge that our new Pope will have to confront.”
“No more talk of compromise on questions of abortion, contraception, homosexuality or euthanasia. No more tolerance for those who claim to be Catholic while supporting vile acts such as abortion,” she said. “Please join me in thanking God for our new Pope. Let us pray without ceasing for him.”
Many hope that reform will begin with educational institutions run by his own Society of Jesus.
“The fact that God has provided a Jesuit as our new Holy Father has great significance for many Catholics, who have been hoping and praying that the New Evangelization will bring about the renewal of the Society of Jesus and its many schools and colleges,” Patrick J. Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society, said. “For decades, Jesuit universities in the United States have been hotbeds of dissent, with many professors displaying great disrespect for the Vatican and the bishop.”
“We trust that he will continue the renewal of fidelity and Catholic identity in Catholic education, which Pope Benedict said was 'the most urgent internal challenge' facing the Church in the United States,” Reilly added. “In your charity, please pray for the renewal of Catholic education and for our new Holy Father, Pope Francis!”
As an Argentine Cardinal, the new pope sometimes clashed with political authorities – and sometimes his fellow priests, as one who distanced himself from those who taught liberation theology, a baptized Marxism dressed up in Christian terminology. Pope John Paul II strongly condemned its spread.
“Pope Francis is a man of great spirituality who is known for his commitment to doctrinal orthodoxy as well as for his simplicity of life,” Fr. Robert Sirico, president of The Acton Institute, said. “Like Benedict XVI, he combines concern for the poor with an insistence that it’s not the Church’s responsibility to be a political actor or to prescribe precise solutions to economic problems. In that regard, he’s a model for all Catholic bishops and clergy throughout the world.”
The years he spent clashing with Argentine authorities will help combat the Obama administration and, perhaps, reform the sometimes inattentive U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops, according to Richard Viguerie, a practicing Catholic and the proprietor of ConservativeHQ.com.
As a bishop and cardinal in his home country, the new pope “provided the great moral compass that society must have when temporary political expediency points a nation or a people in the wrong direction,” Viguerie said. “Such moral leadership and courage will inject much-needed backbone into the bishops, priests, and lay-leaders here in the United States, where the Church has too often adopted the trends and habits of a secular amoral society.”
Those principles include an unqualified support of life from conception to natural death, causes for which the Vatican has become the world's leading advocate.
"The pro-life movement owes a debt of gratitude to the Catholic Church for its leadership and on-going commitment to building a world in which everyone is welcomed in life and protected in law," said Dr. Charmaine Yoest. "Americans United for Life extends our sincere congratulations to our Catholic friends as they prepare to welcome Pope Francis I as their new leader.”
“Priests for Life is delighted at the selection of Pope Francis I and we are assured that the sanctity of all human life will be a top priority for this Pope, as it has been for his predecessors,” said Fr. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life. “We look forward to working under the leadership of the new pope to advance the culture of life."
Bryan Kemper, Youth Outreach Director for Priests for Life, said he and the young Catholics he meets everyday are “excited for his leadership and committed to continuing to share the message of life that is so central to our Church."
The media have made much that the pope hails from Latin America. Bergoglio, who is of Italian descent, has become a potent figure for the Global South and a reminder that papal leadership extends to every corner of the world.
“The inspired selection of Pope Francis is most welcome and exciting news as we face increasing pressure in Latin America from radical forces intent on destroying the culture of life,” Marie Smith, director of the Parliamentary Network for Critical Issues, said. “Responses from contacts in Argentina comment on the new Pope’s simplicity of style, attention to his role as pastor, and focus on the social issues that challenge the region and the world today. We look forward to his leadership of the Church.”
Others were simply impressed with the character of the man who has been chosen to lead the world's one billion Roman Catholics.
“We were struck by his humility in such an august moment, especially when he asked all of us to ask the Lord to bless him before he imparted his first papal blessing upon the Church and the world,” Father Shenan J. Boquet, president of Human Life International, said. “We will certainly continue praying for him, asking that the Lord grant him peace and wisdom, strength and courage, and give him every grace necessary to guide the Church during this time."
Obviously, the pope's primary duty is acting as chief shepherd of the Roman Catholic Church. The Remnant newspaper noted that, while it is not certain of his disposition toward the Traditional Latin Mass, “the Institute of the Good Shepherd has a house in his diocese.”
Kresta told LifeSiteNews that he believes the new pope will “make a supreme effort to present the Catholic Faith in its totality, in its fullness, to the world.”
“It won't be liberal; it won't be conservative. It won't be left-wing; it won't be right-wing. It won't be just Social Justice; it won't be just doctrine. It won't be just East or West,” he said.
While Pope Francis “believes everything the Catechism teaches," Kresta said he will “adorn the doctrine and make sure that people understand that the faith is not just believing in a set of propositions, but it's also the reception of a new light.”
“This man lives what he believes,” he said.