As news of Pope Francis’ election spread, religious and world leaders congratulated the new Roman Pontiff and praised his work for the poor.
President Barack Obama of the United States sent well wishes, calling the new Pope a “champion of the poor and the most vulnerable among us.” Pope Francis, he said, “carries forth the message of love and compassion that has inspired the world for more than 2,000 years – that in each other we see the face of God.”
“As the first pope from the Americas, his selection also speaks to the strength and vitality of a region that is increasingly shaping our world, and alongside millions of Hispanic Americans, those of us in the United States share the joy of this historic day.”
The American president stated that he was looking forward to working with Pope Francis in advancing “peace, security and dignity for our fellow human beings, regardless of their faith.”
UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon offered “heartfelt congratulation” to Pope Francis, and stated that he looked forward to the continued cooperation between the United Nations and the Holy See.
“We share many common goals – from the promotion of peace, social justice and human rights, to the eradication of poverty and hunger – all core elements of sustainable development,” he said.
“I am certain that His Holiness will continue to build on the legacy of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, in the promotion of interfaith dialogue which is at the heart of the Alliance of Civilisations initiative.”
Message from home
President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, head of state of the Pope’s native land, wished Pope Francis a “fruitful pastoral mission”. The Argentinian president recognized the “tremendous responsibility on his shoulders, seeking justice equality, brotherhood and peace among mankind.”
During a meeting at his Jerusalem residence, Israeli president Shimon Peres welcomed the announcement of Pope Francis’ election, saying that the newly elected Pontiff represents “devotion, the love of God, the love of peace, a holy modesty and a new continent which is now awakening.”
“We need, more than ever, a spiritual leadership and not just a political one. Where political leaders may divide, spiritual leaders may unite. Unite around a vision, unite around values, unite around a faith that we can make the world a better place to live. May the Lord Bless the new Pope,” President Peres said.
The Israeli president also took the opportunity to invite the Holy Father to visit Israel.
“I would like to take this opportunity to invite the newly elected Pope to pay a visit to the Holy Land at the earliest possibility,” he said. “He’ll be a welcome guest in the Holy Land, as a man of inspiration that can add to the attempt to bring peace in a stormy area. All people here, without exception, without difference of religion or nationality will welcome the newly elected Pope.”
“A Compassionate Pastor”
Religious leaders across the globe hailed the election of Pope Francis and expressed their admiration for Pope Francis’ simplicity and humility.
“We wish Pope Francis every blessing in the enormous responsibilities that he has assumed on behalf of Roman Catholics around the world,” said Archbishop of Canterbury John Welby.
“I look forward to meeting Pope Francis, and to walking and working together to build on the consistent legacy of our predecessors. May the love of Christ unite us, and intensify our service in a genuine and fruitful ecumenism that can be a blessing for the Body of Christ throughout the world.”
“Pope Francis”, he continued, “is well known as a compassionate pastor of real stature who has served the poor in Latin America, and whose simplicity and holiness of life is remarkable.”
Archbishop Jose Luis Escobar of San Salvador conveyed his joy that the “Lord has cast his eyes on Latin America.”
“We are extremely grateful to God for that because we have a Latin American pope,” he said.
Archbishop Stephen Breslin, President of the South African Bishops Conference touched upon the significance of Pope Francis’ election.
“The symbolism of choosing a pope from Latin America delights and touches us, most particularly in developing countries,” Archbishop Breslin said.
The editor of the US-based publisher Ignatius Press, himself a Jesuit, stated: “It is a brilliant stroke of the Holy Spirit that completely faked out the media (and me too, I have to say). A son of Ignatius takes the name of Francis. A man of Old World heritage who is part of the New World. Truly a Pontifex Maximus (which means ‘the greatest builder of bridges’). He’s solidly orthodox with a zeal for the poor. His model is the obedience of Ignatius and the poverty of Francis. How blessed we Catholics are in our popes!”