SCRANTON — Bishop Joseph Bambera told more than 100 people gathered Thursday in St. Peter’s Cathedral that Catholics around the world have gone from a period of sadness to one of great joy and celebration.
Bambera, spiritual leader of the Diocese of Scranton, held a special Mass to celebrate the election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as pope — the 265th successor to St. Peter.
Bambera said Catholics were saddened when Pope Benedict XVI unexpectedly announced his resignation only a few weeks ago. He said Pope Francis brings new light and joy to the Catholic Church.
“He wasn’t at the top of anybody’s list that I saw in the media, but look at the background and accomplishments of this humble man,” Bambera said during his homily. “This shows that it is God who truly drives the church, and his wisdom is beyond questioning.”
Bambera said Pope Francis has a deep commitment to the Catholic faith, a strong sense of humility and a love of the poor.
A statue of St. Francis of Assisi stands at the rear of St. Peter’s in Scranton. Bambera expects Pope Francis to be a reflection of St. Francis — to be committed to the Gospel, he said.
Peggy Bostwick of Pocono Pines said she attends every special Mass that Bambera holds. “This is something special,” she said of the Mass for Pope Francis. “And Bishop Bambera is special; he is always worth listening to.”
Bostwick was surprised at the selection of the cardinal from Buenos Aires, she said, but she feels Pope Francis, 76, is just what the Catholic Church needs. “I think a lot of people were expecting to see a much younger pope,” she said. “There were a lot of young faces in Vatican Square last night, but I think everyone is thrilled at the choice.”
Bostwick said Pope Francis, despite being a Jesuit, will bring conservatism to the church. “Over the last several years, I think we have gotten away from a lot of the basics of Catholicism,” she said. “I think Pope Francis will be more mainstream.”
Tom and Dolores Gronski of Scranton said their daughter attended the University of Scranton — a Jesuit school — and was born on St. Francis Day. “I think it’s great that he is from this hemisphere,” said Dolores Gronski. “It’s a new beginning.”
Tom Gronski said he took a bottle of Argentine wine to Mass on Wednesday evening after the election of Pope Francis. He gave it to the priest who celebrated the Mass in the University of Scranton’s chapel.
“I hope he shared it,” he said. “It’s good wine.”