By Steve Angeles, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

March 14, 2013

LOS ANGELES – As Catholics within the archdiocese of Los Angeles continued to pray their daily novenas for the Lenten season, a new name was added to their list of petitions: Pope Francis– that he shall have wisdom and strength to lead the church.

At the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in the East Hollywood neighborhood where the congregation is made up of mostly Filipinos and Latinos, the faithful believe that the former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina, is a good representative of the global community, with his Latin American roots and experience serving impoverished communities.

“Having somebody outside of Europe is a validation of the fact that majority of Catholics now live in other parts of the world. I think he can lead, he will feel the pulse of the majority of the Catholics,” said Fr. Miloy Pacanza of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church.

“He’s good in pastoral work, he’s very humble and I think he has all the great qualification for being pope. We just all have to be united behind him,” Wilma, a Los Angeles resident, said.

Filipinos hope the new pontiff can continue to uphold conservative traditions and at the same time, address the present needs of its flock. The Catholic church continues to have a massive influence in the Philippines, as it ministers to 80% of the population. Last year, the church flexed its muscle to block a controversial piece of legislation that would give poor Filipino women access to sex education and contraceptives. The bill has since been signed into law and Catholic conservatives there are mounting campaigns to prevent the re-election of lawmakers who supported the bill.

“I think he’s still going to follow the rules and regulations of the Catholics because Catholics don’t like abortion at all,” Richard Soldevilla of Los Angeles said.

Filipino Catholics in Southern California also agree that the issue of clergy abuse needs to be addressed immediately.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles has recently bagreed to pay $10 million in damages to four victims of abuse on Tuesday, as the papal conclave began.

“He should be very strict about the abuse because we are with the Lord so we have to follow what the Catholic policy, so that the other religions would respect us too,” Soldevilla said.

In the meantime, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) has issued a statement expressing concern that the Society of Jesus, of which Pope Francis comes from, has had a troubled track record on children’s safety.

“We hope that will give him the courage to shake things up and put the prevention of abuse and cover up first on his priority list,” SNAP said.

SNAP hopes that because Pope Francis is not from within the Vatican, he will have “the courage to shake things up and put the prevention of abuse and cover up first on his priority list.”

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