Father Patrick Reuse of Saint Henry Catholic Church in Brigham City was sitting down for lunch the second day of the papal conclave — the meeting convened for the College of Cardinals to elect the new pope — when he heard the news that a new pope had been chosen: Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina. It was also announced Bergoglio took the name Francis for his papal name.
Though rector of a small parish in Northern Utah, Reuse has something in common with Pope Francis: They are both members of the Society of Jesus, or Jesuits.
“Part of our training is we’re supposed to avoid honors,” Reuse said.
However, that does not mean a Jesuit cannot become pope. Reuse said the reason one becomes a Jesuit is they want to serve the church. Francis already has a reputation for humility and service. Since being introduced to the world on March 13, articles in the media have reported how he kissed the feet of AIDs patients and prayed with prostitutes during his ministry in Argentina. The day after the conclave, he checked himself out the hotel he stayed in and paid the bill.
Reuse said he was impressed with Francis’ humility when he was introduced to the public and spoke to Italians first as the Bishop of Rome, in their own language.
“I like how he ended it,” Reuse said. “He ended it with ‘Good night and sleep well!’”
Francis has the distinction of being the first Jesuit pope as well as the first one from the Americas. The last non-European pontiff was from Syria nearly 1,300 years ago.
Reuse said having a Latin American pope means the Catholic Church is adapting to the times. Currently 40 percent of church members reside in Latin America, according to the BBC.
Every pope is different, and Francis will likely take a different approach than his predecessor, explained Harrison Kleiner, a philosophy professor who is involved with the USU Catholic Newman Center.
“I’ve heard him described as a shoe leather preacher, a sort of ‘take Christianity out into the streets,’” Kleiner said.
Differences will be primarily in style, and doctrine is not likely to change because there is a new pope, Kleiner said. One of the main issues facing the Catholic Church is the rise of “hostile secularism” in the world, he said. Though national news outlets continue to speculate on social issues facing modern Catholicism, the church is not going to change its position to fit the world’s standards, he said.
“The papacy is not the office that makes doctrine, it protects doctrine,” Kleiner said.
When a new pope is chosen it is usually an exciting time for Catholics, Kleiner said. During the week of the conclave he sat in his office with two computer screens up. One had work-related matters while the other showed the Internet live stream in Rome pointing at the smokestack atop the Sistine Chapel. The smokestack, installed just before the conclave, signals whether a new pope has been chosen or not in the latest round of voting by cardinals. White smoke means a pope has been chosen, while black smoke means no one gained the 77 votes necessary to be declared the new pontiff.
This conclave was also different from others. This was the first time in nearly 600 years that a pope resigned from office. Pope Benedict XVI, Francis’ predecessor, announced his intentions to retire in February due to complications caused by age.
Benedict, also a very meek and humble man, approached matters differently, Kleiner said. Benedict XVI preferred the formal trappings of office, and was a traditionalist. There is likely to be a pivot in the church to things Francis is interested in, such as informal commentary on scripture, he said.
Regardless of the direction Francis leads the Catholic Church, he will be watched by the public in his endeavors.
“I hope he’ll retain some of his training,” Reuse said.