By Judy O’Gorman Alvarez
As Catholics throughout the world welcomed the newly installed Pope Francis I, parishioners in the Two River area generally were pleased with the new pontiff’s humility and focus on kindness and charity.
“Every new pope comes in with a particular set of themes that he’ll build his pontificate around,” said Mark Russoniello, pastoral associate at St. Leo the Great parish in Lincroft. “John Paul II spent much time on the dignity of the human person. Benedict followed suit with evangelization and the revitalization of the faith.
“Obviously, Pope Francis is making it clear his focus will be on ministry of service, with a real focus on the weakest in society, those who hover on the periphery – the elderly, the poor, the disabled.”
Russoniello pointed out that during the procession following Pope Francis’ installation on Tuesday, the pope stopped to bless a man in a wheelchair. “He made it clear this is going to be what he’s going to focus on.”
Russoniello believes the new pope will put more focus on humility. “He even said: ‘Don’t be afraid of goodness, and don’t be afraid of a little tenderness.’ He said it twice in his homily.”
Russoniello said that, although it’s natural for people – Catholics and the media in particular – to make comparisons between the newly retired Pope Benedict and Pope Francis, “You can’t make that comparison as they’re two very different men and it’s too early to assess or get a handle on … what this pontificate will leave behind.
“Francis appears to be standing on Benedict’s teachings on the human relationship with God and God’s love for humanity,” he said. “Taking that love and relationship to God and putting it on concrete action in terms of service and caring for the poor.”
Eileen Fell, Lincroft, is inspired by Pope Francis and what he represents.
“His message is about helping the poor and social justice,” she said. “This is what we should all be striving to do, to help the poor and needy. That’s what the Catholic message is about.”
Fell is pleased that the new pope is the first Jesuit and the first from the Americas, but most importantly she’s touched by his humility and his focus on the needy. “It’s an uplifting message.”
As she left the 7:30 a.m. Mass at St. Anthony of Padua in Red Bank on Wednesday, Rosemary Torianiello of Red Bank said Pope Francis has “given us a lot of inspiration to follow Jesus and to do the work of Jesus.”
Torianiello especially likes that the new pope is “just so humble. He’s connecting” with people.
The Rev. Jose Fernandez-Bangueses, parochial vicar at St. Anthony’s, said he thinks the new pope “brings a lot of hope. He’s a man of God. He connects with people of today and that’s what the church needs.
“He’s so humble and approachable,” Fernandez-Bangueses said.
Deacon Arthur Fama agreed. “He looks out for the most vulnerable,” he said.
“I love him,” Anne Shea of Middletown said succinctly. “He’s a people person.”