Portage County Catholic priests reacted with joy and elation to the election of Pope Francis I, formerly Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina.
The Rev. Fr. Pat Ferraro of St. Joan of Arc Parish in Streetsboro said he's pleased to see the pope's practices reflect his own.
Every week at the end of Mass, Ferraro said he greets parishioners at the door and hears "all sorts of things" about members' lives. Pope Francis I did the same thing at the conclusion of a Mass in Rome, he said.
"I could see what he was doing reflected in what we do every week," said Ferraro. "To watch him engage in that experience was very edifying."
Ferraro said Pope Francis I seems so far to be following the footsteps of his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, who once said, "Preach the Gospel, and, if necessary, use words." In other words, lead by example through a life of humility and generosity. The pope's lifestyle and deeds embody that, thus far, said Ferraro.
"[The choice of Pope Francis I] said the to church as a whole that it is time for something new that's simple and refreshing, and I think the world will be better for it," said Ferraro.
Others in the area also were positive about the choice of Pope Francis I.
"I think he's going to emphasize social justice and also spirituality and holiness. I'm very elated with the appointment," said the Rev. David Misbrener, pastor of St. Peter of the Fields Parish.
The Rev. Thomas Acker, administrator of St. Joseph Parish in Randolph, also was happy with the cardinals' selection.
"I'm very, very pleased because he's a Jesuit," said Acker, a fellow Jesuit.
Jesuits are members of the Society of Jesus, which was founded by St. Ignatius Loyala. The Jesuits are noted for their scholarship and their history of missionary work, spreading Catholicism to India, Japan, China, and South America.
They are also noted as an order of teachers.
Misbrener and Acker also found significance in that the first Latin American and the first Jesuit to be named pontiff chose to be called Francis.
The name pays homage to St. Francis of Assisi, who founded the Franciscan Order and espoused caring for the poor and a life of humility.
Before that was made clear by the Vatican, the local pastors thought the choice also could honor St. Francis Xavier, one of the first Jesuits and the patron saint of missionaries.
Misbrener said he thought the name was a nod to both great Catholic men.
"It could be a number of things," he said. "If he takes the name from St. Francis of Assisi, we know that when he prayed, he saw a vision of the Lord telling him, 'Rebuild my church, which is falling into ruin.' "
Misbrener said the new pope is known for his humility, electing to live in a simple apartment rather than a palatial estate when he served as a bishop. When Argentinians talked about traveling to Rome for the conclave, he urged them to give the money to the poor instead. And in 2001, he gained attention when he washed and kissed the feet of 12 AIDS patients.
Acker said he believes the choice of pope is a continuation of the opportunity for change that started when Benedict XVI resigned.
"That very conservative pope made a very non-conservative move" Acker said of the resignation. "I think the cardinals said, 'Let's continue this.' The church is changing. You know 40 percent of Catholics are in the southern sector" of South America.
Acker also was pleased that the new pope is a scientist. Acker has a doctorate in biology, and Pope Francis I is a chemist.
"By his nature, he's going to be experimental," Acker said. "He's going to have to be careful, of course. But I think he'll have that thing of 'Let's try something.'"
Like others, Acker said there is significance into the name chosen by the new pope. He said his interpretation is that Francis will stand for both saints by that name.
The new pope is rumored to have been the runner-up to Pope Benedict when he was elected in 2005, but the Rev. John Madden, pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Ravenna, said the world will never really know because the ballots are burned after the election.
"I'm still in shock," he said.
The Rev. Steve Agostino, pastoral administrator at the Kent State University Parish Newman Center, said he was very excited by the choice of Bergoglio.
"I just thought this was a good indication that the church is moving forward and really focusing on the need for change," Agostino said. "I think it [represents] the idea of uniting Catholics throughout the world and reminding people the church isn't just in Italy or Europe."
Bishop George Murry of the Diocese of Youngstown said the "Catholic community of the Diocese of Youngstown rejoices" in the Pope's election.
Staff writers Mike Lesko, Diane Smith, Mike Sever and Thomas Gallick contributed to this story.