Upon landing from Mexico last week, I noticed that the first news story on my iPhone was “Habemus Papam.” Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio had just been announced as the new Pope Francis. I knew nothing about him, just like I knew nothing about the super vast majority of the cardinals; yet, a sense of peace reigned in my heart.
As soon as I got home I turned on the TV and saw the joy and tears reflected in the faces of so many people, not just in the Vatican where hundreds of thousands had congregated to hear the news, but also throughout the world, most especially in Latin America. I felt that we, Catholics, were ready to embrace a new beginning. Yes, tears rolled down my eyes too.
I, like so many Catholics in the United States, am exhausted if not outright detached. I live in the Los Angeles area, where for the last decade we have been inundated with the devastating news of the sexual abuses perpetrated by so many priests within our diocese. Thus, the selection of Pope Francis represents a welcome and uncontaminated healing.
As the selected Vicar of Christ, Pope Francis comes to us in a moment of tremendous need — and not just spiritual. The world needs a leader that is humble, that cares deeply for the less fortunate and has the wisdom and strength to stand up for the most sacred values of our Church. Our new Pope’s background is full of examples of his humility, of his profound devotion to the poor and of his standing for our Church’s doctrines.
I am so heartened by this selection in so many ways. Pope Francis, the son of an Italian immigrant family to Argentina is able to understand the plight of immigrants across the world. In addition, he embodies the conservative values of the vast majority of Latino families: faith in God, strength of the family unit and respect and dignity for all human beings.
In a world so needy of true leadership, he is a beacon of hope to all of us who yearn for people in authority to look beyond the immediacy of elections and personal political advancement. He offers a different way: a life devoid of the accouterments of high power, a life with a serenity that is etched in the soul through personal sacrifice. A glimpse into his life reveals a giving of himself in the purest of ways for the benefit of those in greater need. He is a great example of true public service — a calling that all of us must heed.
Maybe through his sheer example he will move other world leaders including those in the United States to reflect and follow his ways. Maybe those actions will lead our world to one that is more compassionate and understanding.
It is no coincidence that he chose his name after St. Francis of Assisi whose prayer is one of my favorites. I pray that God uses him as an instrument of His peace and that where there is hatred he sows love and where there is despair he sows hope.
Rosario Marin was the 41st Treasurer of the United States and is co-chair of the American Competitiveness Alliance.