The Cathedral of the Assumption was nearly half filled at noon yesterday when Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz and more than a dozen members of the clergy celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving for the newly-elected Pope Francis.
Archbishop Kurtz opened the liturgy by giving thanks for unity in the church and for the simplicity of Pope Francis.
He told the faithful that God has granted the church a continuation of unity with the election of a humble, prayerful Successor to Peter.
“To understand it,” he said, one must recall when “2000 years ago, a disciple, an apostle of Jesus — someone who Jesus gave the name Peter — made his way to Rome.”
It was Peter whom Christ called “the rock” upon which the church would be built, he noted. That was the genesis of the papacy that unites Catholics around the world.
“Before even knowing the name (of the newly elected pope Wednesday afternoon) we praised God because we had a pope. He is the source of unity,” the archbishop said.
He noted that St. Peter “was just a weak and imperfect person who came into the shadow of the great mediator, Jesus Christ.” And he said that Pope Francis already has acknowledged his own imperfections.
“We have a pope with a great sense of humor. He first of all led us in prayer — the prayers that mothers and fathers teach their children,” the archbishop said, referring to the Lord’s Prayer, Hail Mary and Glory Be. “He said prayers that were accessible to all of us. … What a source of beauty.
“Then, when he asked for silence for private prayer, weren’t you moved?” the archbishop asked. “What a humble Holy Father we have.”
Archbishop Kurtz also paraphrased for the congregation part of the Prayer of St. Francis, which reads, “Grant that I may not so much seek …to be understood as to understand.”
St. Francis of Assisi, the archbishop noted, was “a great lover of nature, a lover of peace, but also someone who said, ‘Peace must begin with me.’ ”
Like St. Francis of Assissi the new pope is the type of person who would “never ask someone else to do something until we do it ourselves,” he added.
He ended the homily by asking, “St. Francis of Assisi, pray for us.”
Among those gathered at the cathedral was Carmen Rendon, who said she was excited when she heard the new pope hailed from South America.
“The fact that he’s Latin American is exciting to me because I’m Hispanic,” she said, noting that she’s Peurto Rican. “I want to be sure to add my prayers here for unity in the church and peace in the world.”
Rendon said she ordinarily serves as a eucharistic minister for the cathedral’s Thursday noon Mass.
“But today is diferent, she said, adding, “I’m excited to have someone so humble (as) to take the name of Francis.”
Another worshipper, former congressman Romano Mazzoli, noted a sense of pride in the Italian descent of the new pope. Though Pope Francis is a native of Argentina, his family came to South America from Italy.
“As an Itaian, it’s a source of some pride,” said Mazzoli. “And it gives a Roman flavor to the papacy that they haven’t had in some time.”
He said he also welcomed the news that Pope Francis led a simple life in Argentina.
“He has shown humility in his own personal life, taking the bus and cooking meals. He does this in the midst of the ostentation that cardinals have,” he said. “For a Jesuit to pick a Franciscan name — Francis who was dedicated to the poor — I think that’s a wonderful start.”