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Florida Catholics React To First Latin American Pope


There’s a new holy father in the Vatican and he’s the first Pope from Latin America. Now Florida Catholics are reacting to the news of a new pontiff chosen from a land not that far away from the Sunshine State.

According to a 2010 census report, there are more than 2-million Catholics who call the state of Florida home. There are still more citizens of the state who identify themselves as being of Latin American Descent.  And the Bishop of the Pensacola/Tallahassee Catholic Diocese, Gregory Parkes thinks the election of an Argentinian pope finally addresses the church’s diversity.

“It is definitely a historic moment in the church to have a pope elected from Latin America, who is Spanish speaking and I think that it really speaks to or symbolizes the cultural diversity that is present in the Catholic Church worldwide,” Parkes said.

Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio, of Buenos Aires, Argentina is known for his humble love of people, helping the poor and caring for the sick, more specifically his work with HIV positive patients. Florida Catholic Jim Ladner hopes the man now named Francis will bring more meekness to what some say is an increasingly distant Vatican administration.

“We see it on a daily basis with the priests and you know their the humble type and they work with us and everything us but as you  go up in the hierarchy they sometimes become a little detached with the people and I think this pope is going to reemphasize going back to the people,” Ladner said.

Pope Francis’ predecessor, Pope Benedict, was seen as more of an intellectual and less of an administrator. This is what many Catholics believe led to his resignation amid growing sex abuse scandals within the church. Ladner hopes Francis will be a better manager.

“Pope Benedict was a theologian and a very religious person, you know very similar to Pope John Paul, they were both out of the same book. Pope Francis is going to be an administrator; hopefully he can straighten out some of the problems in the Catholic Church,” Ladner said.

More than simply an administrator, Bishop Parkes would like the new pontiff to be a strong spiritual leader.

“What we do see in him is a man whose life has been motivated by love. Love for the poor, love for the disenfranchised, for the ill, for the castaways of society and he has demonstrated that love for them through his life and through his ministry,” Parkes said.

There are many differences between the newly elected pontiff and his predecessor but when it comes to Catholic tenants, the two are very closely aligned. Both Popes tow the conservative line when it comes to the role of women in the church, abortion and contraception and homosexuality. For now Florida’s Catholics are just happy they no longer have a vacancy in their holiest of seats.