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Pinoy leaders welcome Pope Francis, hope for ‘Church of the poor’

MANILA, Philippines - Filipino leaders yesterday joined the Roman Catholic community in welcoming Pope Francis, the first Jesuit and Argentine cardinal elected to the papacy.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. led the House of Representatives in welcoming the pontiff.

“We as Filipinos pray for him and that his charismatic leadership of the Catholic Church leads to the peace and global unity he seeks together with all those of other faiths,” Belmonte said in a statement.

“I join our brothers in the Catholic Church as they welcome with joy Pope Francis with renewed hope, and support His Holiness’ call for world unity and brotherhood,” he added. 

Belmonte also noted that the 76-year-old Pope, the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, has been known to live a life of utmost humility and simplicity before his election to the papacy.

Former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo also commended the modest living of Pope Francis.

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“May the Holy Father’s modest living, solidarity with the poor, and unceasing devotion and service to our Lord and His Blessed Mother lead all humankind to an ever deeper oneness with God,” Arroyo said in statement from the Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City where she is detained for an election sabotage case.

Meanwhile, Anakpawis party-list vice chairman Fernando Hicap appealed to Pope Francis for a one-day visit to the Philippines to see the worsening human rights situation in the country.

He also said Filipinos should elicit the enthusiasm of the Holy Father, who criticized the dictatorship in Latin America in the 1980s.

‘Choice of the Holy Spirit’

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines also said they are one with the Roman Catholic community in welcoming the new pontiff.

Bacolod Bishop Vicente Navarra said that the election of Cardinal Bergoglio as the new pope is the “choice of the Holy Spirit.”

“Pope Francis is a gift from heaven... he is the choice of the Holy Spirit,” Navarra said.

Asked if the Pope will embody the church as the church of the poor, Navarra said, “Let’s pray for it.”

St. Francis and Pope Francis

For his part, Jaro Auxiliary Bishop Gerry Alminaza said that the Pope’s choice of papal name Francis after St. Francis of Assisi is “very significant for our time.”

“St. Francis, who came from a very rich family, renounced his wealth,” Alminaza said.

Pope Francis, known for his simplicity, does not have his own car and takes the bus to work.

“It is very significant and a welcome change,” Alminaza added. “I think he will underline the need for the Church to renew its mission to be a Church of the poor.”

Franciscan friars yesterday said they felt honored that the new pontiff chose the papal name Francis.

“We also need a Church today that is humble, simple and close to the little ones [whom] St. Francis, the Poverello (the little poor man) is known for,” said Fr. Lino Gregorio Redoblado, minister of San Pedro Bautista province. “I think that is why the new Pope chose the saint’s name.”

Cardinal Bergoglio is the first pope from the Americas and the first from outside Europe in more than a millennium.  – Danny Dangcalan, Paolo Romero, Michelle Zoleta and Evelyn Macairan

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