Jesuits around Australia have expressed both surprise and excitement at the news of the election of Pope Francis I.
As a young man, Jorge Mario Bergoglio went to the Jesuit seminary in Argentina before his ordination as a priest of the Society of Jesus in 1969.
Australia’s provincial Fr Stephen Curtin SJ said the result of the conclave was a strong endorsement for the order.
“We’re really delighted, the Jesuits are very happy and rather proud to think that one of our own has been elected Pope,” he said.
“There are times when the Jesuits get criticised, but to have a Jesuit as the Pope gives everybody confidence that this is a good way of life.”
Meanwhile, in the Perth Archdiocese, Jesuit superior Fr John Prendiville SJ said he was pleased that, for the first time in the Church’s history, a Jesuit had been chosen as Pope.
“I’m glad that they [elected] a Latin American, and a man with a great love for the underprivileged, the poor and the needy,” he said.
Parish priest of East Fremantle Fr Stephen Astill SJ said he was greatly surprised when he woke to the news on Thursday morning.
“I’m delighted as a Jesuit that one of my brothers has been elected Pope,” he said.
“He is very much committed to social justice as all Jesuits try to be and because of that background he is in an ideal position to address the issues that do, in some ways, polarise members of the Church.”
Fr Astill said the Jesuit spirituality was very close to the heart of the Church.
“Ignatius has never been a popular saint like St Francis of Assisi or St Dominic but he has been extremely influential in the constitutions of religious congregations and orders,” he said. Fr Joseph Sobb SJ, parish priest of Nedlands, said Pope Francis’ election would cause Catholics to learn more about the history and mission of the Jesuits.
“This will certainly be an opportunity to know something of what we do and what the Society’s mission is,” he said.
Fr Sobb said the new Pope would bring some unique traits of the order to his papacy.
“It’s unusual for us to be even made a bishop … but it’s even more unusual to be made a Pope,” he said.
“I imagine that his Jesuit contribution will be his spirituality and training in the Ignatian spiritual exercises.
“Having been part of the order for so long, he’ll bring the fruit of that to his papacy.”