Richmond reacts to new pope - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

Richmond reacts to new pope

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -

As the world welcomes Pope Francis, religious leaders and scholars in Richmond are reacting to the news.

Father Shay Averbach of the Sacred Heart Church is a leader among many Latinos in Richmond. He has a similar background and the same goal as Pope Francis.

"We're dedicated to serving the poor," said Averbach, who says he knew of Bergoglio and is looking forward to his leadership. "I think it is an exciting time because churches in a lot of ways are at a crossroads looking for good leadership and I think with a choice of pope from Latin America it recognizes the importance of the new world especially Latin America in terms of the church, it's present and its future."

Just across the river at VCU, Professor of Religious Studies Dr. Andrew Chesnut calls this vote historic.

"His selection as a Latin American pope signals the church will now be focusing on where two-thirds of its members reside in the global south in Latin America, Asia, and Africa. Latin America itself is home to 42 percent of the world's Catholics," said Chesnut.

At the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, church members were huddled around their laptop and computers listening to Pope Francis speak thousands of miles away in Rome.

"It's very much a surprise. He was not in that top 5 list of names," said Director of Religious Education at the Cathedral of Sacred Heart, Nicholas Stein.

Stein says the vote was very strategic and calculated.

"They want someone who can come in and clean up some of the scandals and they picked someone who they felt could do that in a healing and humble way," said Stein.

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