On Thursday, newly elected Pope Francis issued a message to his fellow cardinals over their role to the Roman Catholic Church.
“When the Church does not walk it falls apart like a sand castle,” said Jorge Mario Bergoglio at a mass held roughly twenty-four hours after he was elected as the next Pope.
“I would like all of us...to have the courage to walk in the presence of God,” added the Archbishop of Buenos Aires in his homily to 114 other cardinals gathered at the Sistine Chapel.
Prior to today’s mass, the Pope issued a letter to Rome’s Rabbi Yona Metzger expressing his desire to help improve “relations between Catholics and Jews.”
“I hope to contribute in the improvement of ties between Jews and Catholics…in a spirit of renewed collaboration,” read part of the missive issued by the Pope.
The international director of interreligious affairs at the American Jewish Committee praised Bergoglio’s ties to the Jewish community in Argentina including his remarks over the deadly bombing of a Buenos Aires AMIA Jewish center in 1994.
"(Bergoglio) was forthright not only in his condemnation of the act but in his solidarity with the Jewish community," said Rabbi David Rosen to the Religion News Service.
Among the many messages of congratulations sent to the new Pope were statements from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, (OIC) and Al-Aznar.
OIC chief Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu wished that “the relationship between Islam and Christianity will regain its cordiality and sincere friendship” under Bergoglio while Al-Azhar called for the resumption of “dialogue with the Vatican which was suspended in early 2011”.
Argentines including several thousands of Buenos Aires residents celebrated the election of Cardinal Bergoglio as the next Pope. Among those overjoyed at the news was Bergoglio’s sister, María Elena, who alleged that her brother “didn’t want to become Pope.”
The new Pope will have plenty of problems to tackle including financial problems, corruption and a litany of sexual abuse scandals. (On the first day of the Papal conclave the Los Angeles Archdiocese reached a multimillion-dollar settlement with abuse victims). But he will also have to face the challenge from evangelical churches in a traditionally Catholic Latin America:
While some see Latin America's estimated 40 percent of the world's 1.2-billion Catholic population as a bulwark of the faith, the church is also facing challenges in the region from evangelical churches.
In Mexico, the percentage of the population who identify themselves as Catholics dropped from over 90 percent in the 1980s to 84 percent in 2010, the latest year for which data is available.
In Brazil, home to a number of charismatic or evangelical churches, the drop has been even more precipitous, from 84 percent in 1995 to 68 percent in 2010.
"In numerical terms, Latin America is majority Catholic, in broad terms, but these aren't the best times for the church," said (Mexico's Center for Religious Studies analyst Bernardo) Barranco. "On the contrary, it is going through a severe crisis the like of which it has never seen before."Bergoglio has come under scrutiny over allegations that he supposedly turned a blind eye to human rights abuses committed by the ruling military junta in the “Dirty War” period. For instance, journalist Horacio Verbitsky claimed that Bergoglio withdrew his order to protect two clergymen who were eventually kidnapped and imprisoned for five months. Yet Nobel Peace laureate and human rights activist Adolfo Pérez Esquivel declared that Bergoglio “does not have a single link tying him to the dictatorship” that ruled from 1976 to 1983.
According to Vatican press spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, Bergoglio jokingly remarked to other cardinals, "May god forgive you for what you have done." Lombardi also noted that Bergoglio, who lived in a small apartment in Buenos Aires and took the subway to work, rejected use of the official papal auto.
Video Source– YouTube via Associated Press
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