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Monroeville-area Catholic leaders, parishioners excited for new pope

| Wednesday, March 20, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
With the College of Cardinals filling the balconies of St. Peter's Basilica, Pope Francis I addresses the crowd at St. Peter's Square after becoming the 266th pontiff in the Catholic church's 2,000 year history.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
With the College of Cardinals filling the balconies of St. Peter's Basilica, Pope Francis I addresses the crowd at St. Peter's Square after becoming the 266th pontiff in the Catholic church's 2,000 year history.

A pope by any other name would mean something very different.

The newly selected Pope Francis has set high expectations by naming himself after a saint whose life was dedicated to serving the poor and being an advocate for the people of the church. His installation Mass was Tuesday in St. Peter's Square in the Vatican.

“Pope Francis seems to be a model of St. Francis — being among the poor, among the people, wanting to be with the people and to show the people that he wants to be with them and serve them,” said the Rev. Anthony Gargotta of the St. Bernadette Parish in Monroeville.

Gargotta said he is pleased with the selection of Jesuit Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina as the 266th pope.

The pontiff is the first to take the name Francis. Bergoglio also is the first pope from Latin America. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, the 265th pontiff, resigned last month citing lack of stamina. He is the first pope to resign since Pope Gregory XII in 1415.

The pope's name also represents his responsibility to be a bridge builder — which is what pontiff means, after all — by linking the Franciscans more closely with the Catholic Church, said the Rev. Joseph Luisi of North American Martyrs Parish in Monroeville and Pitcairn.

“He reached across the aisle, so to speak, when he picked (the name) Francis because he formed a new link with the Franciscans,” said Luisi, also citing the pope's heritage as an important opportunity. “I think Pope Francis is a breath of fresh air in that he represents 40 percent of the world's Catholics, who live in Latin America.”

Pope Francis brings a lot of firsts as pontiff that opens a dialogue in families to talk about a variety of things, said Carol Roper who has two sons who attend North American Martyr School in Monroeville.

“There are lots of topics of conversation that he introduces,” said Roper, which is exciting and attractive to her children.

Roper also made the effort of recording the installation Mass, which aired early in the morning, so that her children could see it.

“We'll take the time to watch some parts of it so they can get a sense of how this aspect of their faith unfolds and develops. … (So) it can be a little more real to them,” she said.

To commemorate the pope's installation, the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh held a celebration service Tuesday evening in St. Paul Cathedral in Pittsburgh's Oakland neighborhood with Bishop David Zubik. Students at Catholic schools were given a day off from school Tuesday to pray for the new pope's installation.

“I certainly hope that they get to have an opportunity to see (the installation on TV) and, not only that, but to have a family talk about why this is so important,” said Patti Weisser, a sixth-grade teacher at North American Martyrs School.

Weisser is excited to have a pope from this hemisphere and appreciates that he has a lot on his plate with expectations that parallel his namesake.

“I am truly excited to see what changes will take place within out Catholic Church,” she said. “I'm hoping that this priest will find a way ... at his level to bring people back to the church.”

His name might act as a measuring stick for Catholics and will be a way to anticipate things to come.

“St. Francis was known to be the person most like Christ, and I think Pope Francis is trying to do that, as well — be the leader of the church but not be above the people (but) be with the people,” Gargotta said.

Matthew DeFusco is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-871-2311 or

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