LONDON (AP) — World leaders sent in their congratulations and Catholics around the world were celebrating Wednesday after the
Vatican announced the election of Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio to the papacy — making him the first pontiff from the Americas.
As bells tolled and crowds cheered across Latin America, President Barack Obama offered warm wishes to Pope Francis and said the selection speaks to the strength and vitality of the New World.
“I offer our warm wishes to His Holiness Pope Francis,” Obama said. “As a champion of the poor and the most vulnerable among us, he carries forth the message of love and compassion that has inspired the world for more than 2,000 years.”
In Europe, British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Francois Hollande, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel also issued
Wednesday was “a momentous day for the 1.2 billion Catholics around the world,” Cameron said in a message posted to Twitter, while
Merkel, the daughter of a Lutheran pastor, said millions of Catholics and non-Catholics alike would be looking to the new pope for guidance not just in questions of faith but in matters of peace, justice and protecting creation.
Merkel said she was particularly happy for Christians in Latin America, who now had one of their own called to be pope for the first time. Francis was elected after German-born Pope Benedict XVI stepped down last month, saying he lacked the strength to continue in the job.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he looked forward to cooperation with the Holy See under Pope Francis’ “wise leadership,” while European Union leaders Herman Van Rompuy and Jose Manuel Barroso wished the new Catholic leader “a long and blessed pontificate.”
Philippine president Benigno Aquino III also said he is eager to work with the new leadership of the Catholic faith.
In a statement he released through his administration’s press secretary Edwin Lacierda, on Wednesday, he said, “This is not merely a time for all Catholics to come together. This is a call for unity across nations—across ethnicities—to work with the new Catholic leadership towards shaping a world in which each and every human being is allowed to live a life of peace, joy, and dignity.”
-With reports from Balitang America Staff