Lot of hope for new pope

The announcement yesterday that an Argentinean cardinal will be the new pope was a surprise. He is the first pope from the Americas.

It remains to be seen, though, if 76-year-old Jorge Mario Bergoglio will have the stamina or the will to reform the church. Pope Francis I, as Bergoglio will be known, faces daunting challenges.

As we noted last Sunday, the new pope has to clean up the mess of the child sex scandal that has rocked Catholicism. He not only needs to root out any of the clergy involved in the abuse, but also the bishops and cardinals that covered it up.

The election of the new pope came one day after the announcement that the archdiocese of Los Angeles had settled four sex abuse cases for $10 million. Cardinal Roger Mahony – who voted in the conclave that selected Bergoglio – was relieved of all his public duties in February because of his handling of the sex abuse scandal. The Los Angeles Times reported Mahony’s successor – Archbishop Jose Gomez – initiated the action.

Francis’ selection also may well pave the way for the cleanup of the Vatican Bank. The bank is shrouded in secrecy and there have been allegations of money laundering for underworld figures. Bergoglio has been half a world away from the bureaucracy that has controlled the bank.

It is also time to give women a bigger role in the running of the Church – a time to be inclusive.

If there is a disappointment in the selection, it is the new pope’s age. Again, as we expressed Sunday, it would have been nice to see a younger person instigate and force change – and have the years left to make sure it was carried through.

Geography alone, though, will make Francis a different kind of pope. He is from the “New World” – Europe will no longer dominate. New voices will be heard, new ideas will be considered.

The church has a chance to reform and revive itself. It is up to Pope Francis I to lead the way to that new day.

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.