JERUSALEM (CNS) – Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal commended Pope Francis on his election with the traditional Arabic greeting of “Alf mabrouk,” or “1,000 congratulations.”
“There is depth in our communion. Holy Father, it is with gratitude and great hope that we look forward to all that you do for the church, the world and the pastoral solicitude that you will have for our Latin patriarchate during your pontificate,” Patriarch Twal said a March 14 in a statement.
The patriarch pledged “full support and assurance of our fidelity, affection and prayers” for the new Pope.
“As the mother church of Jerusalem, we are profoundly delighted with the election of the new pastor of the Catholic Church, chosen by the cardinals and above all by the Holy Spirit,” he said. “We bless the Lord and let flow from our hearts a fervent ‘Deo gratias!'”
Patriarch Twal also invited Pope Francis to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, offering the traditional Arabic welcome “Ahlan we sahlan.”
“We also hope and trust that you will continue the work for peace and justice in the Middle East, especially in the Holy Land,” he added.
Franciscan Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, custos of the Holy Land, noted in a March 14 statement that he was surprised when he heard the announcement that Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina, would be the new Pope and that he chose the name Francis.
“I didn’t expect it, and it was a shock,” Father Pizzaballa said. “The evening before, I spoke with the apostolic nuncio in Jordan (Archbishop Giorgio Lingua), who said that he hoped the new Pope would take a name like Joseph or Francis as a prophetic gesture for the future. And here we have it. In fact, I believe that in this name we have an entire program.”
He recalled having met Pope Francis when he was a cardinal in Buenos Aires and being touched by his “humility and simplicity.”
“Buenos Aires is one of the largest cities in the world. When meeting the cardinal, one expects a certain protocol. But it is he who opens the door, shows you where to park your car in the courtyard of the diocesan residents and makes the coffee,” Father Pizzaballa said.
He noted that Pope Francis is known for “being much attached to the principles of the faith and also very open to dialogue with everyone.” As cardinal he had excellent relations with both the Argentine Jewish community as well as the Muslim community there, he said.
The custos noted that because of the great distance between Latin America and Argentina it may take Pope Francis some time to “grasp the realities here (in the Middle East).”
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, on an official visit to Moscow, also congratulated the new pontiff and invited him to visit Bethlehem, according to press reports. He expressed hope that Pope Francis would work toward peace in the Holy Land.
Yusef Daher, executive secretary of the Jerusalem Inter-Church Center, saw Pope Francis’ election as a sign of hope.
“When I saw him on the balcony last night I saw hope, for the poor, for the Catholic Church, for unity of the Christian body and healing for the world’s agonies,” Daher told Catholic News Service. He said he had first heard Cardinal Bergoglio’s name about 10 days earlier while discussing papal candidates with a Catholic bishop.
“For some reason when he stopped to tell us about this cardinal and that he was from Argentina and a Jesuit, I prayed for him,” Daher said.