North Coast Catholics welcome choice of pope

  • Cardinal Newman principal Graham Rutherford talks about the new Pope in Santa Rosa, on Wednesday, March 13, 2013.
    (Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat)

Like Catholics all over the North Coast, students at Cardinal Newman High School near Santa Rosa eagerly awaited the announcement Wednesday of a new pope, which Principal Graham Rutherford made over the loudspeakers just before classes broke for lunch.

"I'm really excited, we'd been waiting all day," said Nate Bentham, a senior at Newman, after hearing of the selection of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina.

"I'm excited that he's from a different part of the world, and I think his Jesuit background will bring a different perspective."

Bentham, 17, is a part of the school's senior campus ministry class. Prior to the Vatican's announcement, the class had been examining the backgrounds of some of the original front-runners. Bergoglio's name was not among them.

"I think we're all shocked, but the general feeling is really positive," said Newman senior Sinead Lafferty, an Irish-born Catholic.

The pope's choice of the name Francis, based on St. Francis of Assisi, was met with approval.

"It was the first thing that struck me," said Bishop Robert F. Vasa of the Santa Rosa Diocese. "It's a small thing, but it's symbolic of the reflection of his heart."

Rutherford said he hopes when people hear the name they won't think just of garden statues. "Francis was eloquent and his quote, 'preach the gospel to all the world and if necessary use words,' (demonstrates) this," Rutherford said. "He's one of the finest saints you could role model after."

Pope Francis' status as a Jesuit priest resonated with a large number of Catholics.

"The Jesuits have a history of speaking honestly about what needs to be done," said Rutherford, who attended the Jesuit-led Santa Clara University. "They're deeply involved in education and missions."

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