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San Diego Bishop Reacts To New Pope Selection

March 14, 2013 1:36 p.m.

Guests

Michael Lovette-Colyer, Assistant Vice President at USD

Fr. Lawrence Purcell, Church of The Nativity in Rancho Santa Fe

Fr. Federico Masutti, St. Anne's Catholic Church Logan Heights

Pat Sandall, member Roman Catholic Women Priests

Related Story: San Diego Bishop Reacts To New Pope Selection

Transcript:

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

CAVANAUGH: Our top story on Midday Edition is the impact the new pope from South America has for San Diego Catholics, especially Latino Catholics. Before yesterday's election, the name of Jorge Bergoglio was not heard in speculation about who would become the pope. But one San Diego priest says he was thinking about the possibility of a pope from his native country. We spoke with Father Federico Masutti from Logan Heights. He told us about his reaction to the election of pope Francis.

FR. MASUTTI: I had the feeling that even an Argentinian pope would be elected. As soon as I heard the cardinal saying Jorge Mario, I was shocked, and very, very happy when I heard that he was appointed as the holy father, the Vicor of Christ on earth. I think for the Latin American church, it would be definitely an occasion of hope, happiness that the holy father belongs to a Latin American country. The Catholic church in Latin America now has a very strong voice and will rejuvenate, I think, from this. So as you know, Latin America is suffering from many difficulties, politically, social, and I think this is a very beautiful occasion for the church in general. So I'm very hopeful and praying, we all have to pray for the holy father and those who really love the church.

CAVANAUGH: The father says he actually has long-term ties to former cardinal Jorge Bergoglio.

FR. MASUTTI: He also knew my family. I don't know if he remembers that. Obviously everybody who probably crossed paths with the holy father will say that, but he was a good friend of my father. My father is a musician. And when he was a young man, he knew the cardinal, now the pope. And he had the chance to meet with him. He helped him in difficult situations during my dad's life. He was a spiritual director for him, for my father. And so he sent me an e-mail today. He was really, really emotional and very, very happy. Obviously he married my parents and he baptized me. So it's a very special occasion, definitely.

CAVANAUGH: Joining me now with more San Diego reaction to the election of pope Francis are my guests, father Lawrence Purcell of the church of the nativity in Rancho Santa Fe.

FR. PURCELL: Thank you very much. Good to be here.

CAVANAUGH: Michael Lovette-Colyer is assistant vice president of USD, a Catholic university in San Diego.

LOVETTE-COLYER: Good to be here.

CAVANAUGH: Pat Sandall is a member of the Roman Catholic women priests, not recognized by the Vatican, and welcome to the program.

SANDALL: Thank you very much. Thank you for having me.

CAVANAUGH: Do you share the father's surprise over this election of an Argentine cardinal as pope?

FR. PURCELL: I was surprised, yes. I was surprised more than anything about the age. I thought there might be somebody much younger. But happily surprised 789

CAVANAUGH: San Diego Catholics, especially those of Latino background seem particularly exhilarated. What do you think this choice signals to that population?

FR. PURCELL: Well, we've all been at prayer, and this is an answer to prayer. I say we, I mean Catholics everywhere around the world. People in the Middle East and Asia, Africa, as well as Latin America, of course, it's only natural that somebody who's from a South American country would be more excited than others.

CAVANAUGH: Michael, the nation he comes from is one of the only first surrounding this new pope. The selection of his name, some people are surprised this is the first pope Francis, considering how popular St. Francis of Assisi is.

LOVETTE-COLYER: That's right. I hope people understand why Francis is such a popular saint. He's known as the patron saint of the environment, of creation. So many statues of him appear in people's gardens. He's also renowned for his commitment to the poor and caring for others. He is incredibly popular. And there's an interesting twist to the fact that the first Jesuit pope picked the name Francis. Francis was the patron saint of the Franciscans. It's a delightful irony. And I think it might tell us that pope Francis is going to be a little creative and continue to surprise us.

CAVANAUGH: He is the first Jesuit pope. What is that order known for?

LOVETTE-COLYER: In the United States, mostly for their colleges and universities. There's 28 of them in the United States. And many of them have good basketball teams. They're known for education. They're also known for engaging social justice and being -- educating people to be committed to solidarity with the poor. That's probably what they're most well known for. Typically their formation lasts 10-12 years. That's the formation that pope Francis went through as a young person. And that includes a great deal of study, earning a masters of philosophy and divinity degrees, as well as a 30-day silent retreat. And a way of viewing the world that looks for God's presence in all things.

CAVANAUGH: Bishop Robert Brahms says pope Francis has a new look, new face, new style. Do you think that's what the Catholic church needs at this time?

FR. PURCELL: Every time there's a pope elected it's new. And this is new for a variety of reasons. It's clear the public response, not just Catholic response, but people are ready to have -- to see what God is doing today.

CAVANAUGH: And we've heard some of his new style already, reports today about the fact that he went back and paid his own hotel bill and drove his own car.

FR. PURCELL: Yes, right
[ LAUGHTER ]

CAVANAUGH: So are you expecting to see more of that?

FR. PURCELL: It looks that way. It certainly does. I didn't see this myself. Somebody told me that in the cystine chapel had the altar moved out from the back wall into more of the center so they could gather around the altar, which is a change even in recent years.

LOVETTE-COLYER: And if I can extend that, I think it's remarkable, and there's so much excitement at the campus of the university of San Diego, and there was yesterday, and people really noticed that the first thing pope Francis did was ask the people gathered to bless him, even before he offered a blessing to those gathered. So it's a recognition that God is revealed in community through other people. And while he has a particular and special role to play, he's not the only one who is responsible for communicating God's presence.

CAVANAUGH: Pat, your group Roman Catholic priests, released a statement that welcomed the new pope with a hope that he would hear the voices of women. Do you think that's a realistic possibility?

SANDALL: I do. I think that he seems to be a pope that's a little bit out of the ordinary insofar as what we're accustomed to. He's not a member of the Vatican, and he comes from a very poor country, and he's been always an advocate for the poor and for the marginalized. I feel that he has a listening ear and that he would be willing to at least open the door to conversations around women's issues in the church.

CAVANAUGH: And yet we hear that although this pontiff apparently has a history of being socially active toward the poor and the dispossessed, that he's very conservative when it comes to dogma.

SANDALL: Right, I think that's absolutely true. And not surprising, ion so far as he was appointed by pope John Paul the 2nd, who had a pretty conservative bent. I think as a woman priest, and as a woman in general, I'm less concerned about his dogmatic stances than I am about his openness to social justice issues. So it's exciting for me to see who he is as a person, a champion of social justice.

CAVANAUGH: Michael, what do we know about pope Francis's past?

LOVETTE-COLYER: Well, I think some of the things we're most familiar with, and there's still a lot more to learn, but the things that have come out right away are his humility. The fact that has archbishop of Buenos Aires he chose to move out of the palace to live in a simple apartment. He cooked his own meals. Instead of taking the limo to working he rode public transportation so he could be with people. So his humility is really remarkable. When people of faith are at our best, we're humble. And we're prayerful. And I think with pope Francis, we've got all of those. And that's going to speak to a lot of people

CAVANAUGH: There is some question being raised about his political connections to Ajunta in Argentina. Some history that he might have of the era of the disappeareds in the 1970s. Are you hearing anything that may taint his image?

LOVETTE-COLYER: Well, there's been reports, some in the New York Times, about what he did or did not do during that time to protect some of the Jesuits who were under his authority at that time. But it's still in my estimation too early to really know for sure.

CAVANAUGH: And I would imagine that it would be hard to find any cardinal who has a long history working in the secular world that doesn't have something that can be pointed to as perhaps a dark spot on his record.

FR. PURCELL: I suppose that's true of every single one of us. Pope Francis was a great bishop, leader, and priest in a country very alive politically in a time of many crises. No doubt he had to make many difficult decisions, especially if you're defending the most vulnerable.

CAVANAUGH: Now, pat, much has been said by people who are sort of, pontificating, if I may say, about what the pope will do. The college of cardinals wanted to find someone who would be an effective evangelizer, who would bring the message of the Roman Catholic church throughout the world. I'm wondering from your point of view, how much do you think the Catholic church can grow in the modern world without allowing women to take an equal place in the clergy?

SANDALL: That's an interesting question. I think that there is always going to be room for growth. But I think, perhaps it's more I hope, that at some point in time the church will realize that women can bring something special to the priesthood that our male counterparts might not be aware of. I think that there may come a time that we would as a church stop growing if in fact the door remains closed to women. But I'm hopeful that it won't. I truly believe that things will change and we will continue to grow as a church.

CAVANAUGH: There is a lot of hope, apparently, that's surrounding this new pope. Does that always happen, father percell when there's a new pope? Or is there something special about this one?

FR. PURCELL: It's been my experience that it's always been exciting. Although I don't know that we've ever had such an exposure as we do today with all the high-tech business, all of the cameras. 6,000 people were credited yesterday, the journalists. One thing that strikes me about pope Francis though, he and I are about the same age, ordained priests about the same time, and we're formed by the second Vatican council of 50 years ago. When the whole teaching of the when you were focused on the value of the individual person and the community of the church as a family. So less on hierarchy, less in going from the top down, more on the value of the community made up of individual people. And I would not be surprised if that's going to be his focus.

CAVANAUGH: And Michael, how do you see this new pope addressing this sex and pedophile scandal that has rocked the Catholic church, especially in America and the west for many years now?

LOVETTE-COLYER: He seems well-positioned to bring a great deal of credibility and authority to the ongoing efforts to make sure that the tragedies that have happened in the recent past don't happen again and that the church moves on from that. The fact that he's never worked in the curia, in the administrative office of the Vatican was very much on the minds of the cardinals that elected him, and they all knew that. And he has the authority to come in and make sure the changes that need to be made are made and our young people are protected. I think it's consistent with his advocacy and protection of the poor. He's advocacy and protection of the young and the vulnerable, I think.

CAVANAUGH: If there were one challenge that you see looming for this new hope, what would that be?

BENNETT: Well, they call him pontiff. That's from the word pontifex, meaning a bridge builder. The Roman emperors were called pontiffs, and from them the bishops of Rome have been called bridge builders. And that's his official title now is bishop of Rome. And I think that's it. He'll build bridges with the world at large, with nonchristians and Christians. I think that's the one thing, being a bridge builder.

CAVANAUGH: Okay. I have to leave it there. We are out of time.