The leaders of the dioceses within the Province of Louisville — led by Archbishop of Louisville Joseph E. Kurtz — released statements following the selection of Pope Francis as the 265th Successor of Peter. Their statements follow:
From Archbishop Kurtz:
“Almost 2,000 years ago, Jesus Christ called from among his disciples a Galilean fisherman by the name of Simon to be one of the twelve apostles, and in renaming him Peter, Christ said: “You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church” (Matthew 16:18). After the death and resurrection of Jesus, this fisherman, now an apostle of Jesus Christ, came to Rome as our first Holy Father, and it is that calling establishing the Petrine ministry that we celebrate today. As the world hears the now-famous words Habemus Papam and views the white smoke, it is with joy that we in the Archdiocese of Louisville welcome this wonderful news. May Jesus Christ be praised!
“More than one billion Catholics from every continent of the world, as well as all people of good will, can rejoice in this historic occasion. Continuing the Petrine ministry, our Holy Father will foster the unity found in the truth and charity of Jesus Christ, and it is in this unity that we as a family rejoice.
“Our new Holy Father, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, S.J., is the first pope from outside of Europe in centuries and the first Jesuit pope. He is a retired cardinal from Argentina, and he has taken the name Pope Francis. As gifted as Pope Francis is, it is noteworthy that the first two themes he demonstrated to the world were his deep desire for prayer, as he led us in prayer, and his decision to choose the name of St. Francis, the saint universally known to the world for his simplicity.
“I call upon Catholics of the Archdiocese and all people of good will to join us in praying for our Holy Father, Pope Francis. Please join me in celebrating a Mass of Thanksgiving at noon tomorrow at the Cathedral of the Assumption.”
From Bishop J. Terry Steib of the Diocese of Memphis:
“All of us from the Catholic Diocese of Memphis in Tennessee congratulate our new pontiff, Pope Francis, and pledge our support and allegiance. His election was a surprise – a pleasant surprise. The fact that he is a religious who took the name Francis speaks to his humility. His choice of name also speaks well of how he plans to guide the church in focusing on the needs of strengthening and evangelizing the universal Church. What a blessing it is that Argentina has given the Church its first pope from the new world. We pray for Pope Francis that he will be guided by the Holy Spirit in service to the Church.”
From Bishop Roger J. Foys of the Diocese of Covington, Ky.:
“Once again the Holy Spirit has answered the prayers of the Church and selected for us a new Holy Father in the person of Pope Francis. We rejoice and pledge our prayers for our new Holy Father and pray that he will have many fruitful years in shepherding the Church entrusted to his care. We are celebrating a Mass of Thanksgiving at our Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption on Thursday evening March 21 at 7:00 p.m. and invite all the faithful to join in thanking God for this precious gift.
“We pray that God may bestow every blessing on His Holiness Pope Francis.”
From Bishop Ronald W. Gainer of the Diocese of Lexington:
“Christ commissioned Peter as chief among the Apostles, entrusting to him the keys of the kingdom and the care of the flock. Since Jesus commissioned him to lead the Church, two hundred and sixty-six men have exercised the ministry entrusted to Peter the fisherman, Peter the prince of the apostles.
“Since Peter, the ministry of the papacy has been exercised by a different face, a different individual, for each age and time: saints and sinners, warriors and judges. But the papacy is not a dynasty. The papacy—a series of bishops in the Petrine ministry of faith, unity, and love—occupies an indispensable role in the Catholic Church.
“There are many gifts in the Body of Christ, the Church, but there is one particular ministry which unites all of them—the ministry of the one who sits in the Chair of Peter, teaching and guiding, so that all may grow to maturity in the community of the baptized.
“The pope is a servant of the truth, not its master. It is counterintuitive to the mind of the prevailing secular culture, but the pope cannot change the constitutive truths of the faith in the way that an elected official may change government policies or the way a corporate CEO may change marketing strategies. No pope can and no pope will. The truth is constant. The Truth is a person, Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
“I urge everyone to pray for the Church and in a very special way for Pope Francis as he assumes this singular and central ministry.”
From Bishop David R. Choby of the Diocese of Nashville:
“The election of the Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, is a source of great joy for us as Catholics. It speaks of many qualities of the life of the Church.
“The first is our belief that in prayer, reflection, and conversation, the Cardinal Electors were guided by the Holy Spirit, as Jesus promised the Church would be.
More tangible is the fact that Pope Francis’ election highlights the catholicity or universal nature of the Church. He is the first Pope from the Western Hemisphere. He comes from a continent home to forty percent of the world’s Catholics. I rejoice with my fellow Catholics of Latin America over his election.
“While we celebrate the fact that the election of the Holy Father represents a new chapter in the history of the Church, it is a chapter that will unfold as a part of many earlier chapters. For the past couple of centuries, the Church has been shepherded by many men of outstanding gifts and abilities. Several of them have been judged by the Church to have been saints. Some others will undoubtedly be declared to be such. Pope Francis offers the promise of continuing in that line. And so, even as we celebrate the beginning of this new chapter in the Church’s history, and look forward to what God’s grace will accomplish through him, we are grateful for the witness given by those who have gone before him.
“The Church is in good hands. Let us offer our prayers that God will grant him every grace he needs to fulfill his office as the Vicar of Christ, the chief shepherd and universal pastor of our Church.”