CENTER VALLEY, Pa. - The new pope is breaking ground and making history on a number of fronts:
He's the first pontiff from Latin America, the first Jesuit pope, and the first to be called Francis. The name the pope selects is a closely watched sign of how he will lead the church, and objectives of his pontificate.
After the white smoke billowed from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel on Wednesday, the new pontiff had to make his first decision: picking a name.
Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio chose the name Francis.
"It's pretty cool to me him taking that name and him being the first Francis," said DeSales University junior Beth Blaisse. "So he was bold and took like a different name, that was cool to me."
Analysts say the name Francis signals a devotion to simple living, and peacemaking and that he's sending a signal it won't be business as usual within the church.
Theology Professor at DeSales University Father Thomas Dailey isn't so sure.
"I think you can take some from a name, I'm not sure how much."
The name harks back to St. Francis of Assisi. He's one of the most respected religious figures in history who's associated with poverty and connecting with fellow Christians.
"Portrays the idea of simplicity," added Dailey. "Portrays the idea of a preacher."
St. Francis also founded the Franciscan order.
"You could see that in his speech from the balcony," explained Dailey. "Where most of his speech was praying with the people, that's very Franciscan."
Pope Francis was Archbishop of Argentina. He's the first Jesuit pope, and the first to come from Latin America, an area that accounts for 40% of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics.
His choice of name is being hailed as heralding his priorities as he takes the helm of a troubled church.
"I think what you take most from the name Francis is that the spiritual life is paramount," said Dailey.
Thursday the Holy Father is expected to celebrate Mass with Cardinals in the Sistine Chapel.
Allentown, PA 18102
- Lehigh Valley 69 News