Taos Catholics welcome selection of ‘Papa Pancho’

Originally published in Taos News

Taos Catholics welcome selection of 'Papa Pancho'

Photo: Tina Larkin

Catholics in the Taos community are celebrating the newly elected pope, the very first one from the Americas.

Since the start of his papacy, his down-to-earth, humble attitude has gained Pope Francis popularity among believers and non-believers. Some people even call him familiarly “Papa Pancho.” (Papa is Pope in Spanish and Pancho is the nickname for Francisco.)

“Pope Francis will for sure be a reformer, not in the sense of mere doctrinal battles but rather by a very humble and simple life style,” said Father Kevin Iwuoha, pastor of Holy Trinity Parish in Arroyo Seco. “I love his prayerfulness and simplicity and his ability to open his heart and his life to the poorest of poor. Most of the members of the church hierarchy will certainly find his simplicity and humility very challenging.”

Pope Francis, who is from Argentina, replaces Pope Benedict XVI, who stepped down late last month.

“We are so excited because it is the first time in history that a pope who is not European is bringing the whole world together,” said diaconal candidate Larry Torres. “Pope Francis is from south of the equator, so he is uniting the Southern Hemisphere with the Northern Hemisphere.”

Torres finds significant that the pope chose the name of Francis after Saint Francis of Assisi. “This tells me that he is a man of the people, who is going to ask everyone to give to those who have nothing.”

The new pope is radiating God by his actions, said Torres. “This morning he didn’t ride in the popemobile, but he went out and shook hands with the people at the Church of Santa Anna, which had never happened before,” he said. “It is a new era for the history of the Church. And notice that he was wearing a simple wooden cross instead the golden cross that popes usually wear.”

New Mexican Catholics have another reason to be happy, said Torres. “Gov. Susana Martinez is one of the only four people who are representing the church of the United States in Rome.”

Floyd Fernández is the Hermano Mayor de la Morada. He also looks enthusiastic when talking about the new pope.

“Pope Francisco is a blessing for all Catholics around the world, especially for us Latinos,” he said. “It is very important to celebrate the fact that he is guiding us, particularly now that we are getting close to Holy Week and preparing to live again the mystery of our salvation.”

“We hope that Pope Francis leads the Church in a positive direction toward a brighter future,” said Irene Gallegos, who has attended Holy Trinity Parish for many years. “The most vital thing is that our faith is kept.”

Kathy Brown is the director of the newly formed Holy Trinity Holy Family Life Ministry, an association intended to encourage parishioners to live their Catholic faith more fully and to bring out consuming issues that young people, and Catholics in general, face today.

“The new pope is a wonderful blessing as all our Holy Fathers have been,” she said. “He is going to teach us so much … he has already done a lot in the few days he has been pope.”

She noted the pope’s Inauguration Mass would take place March 19, the feast day for Saint Joseph, who is such an important figure for the church and who was also a caretaker.

“I think it’s cool to have a Latin American pope,” said Arienne González, a UNM Taos student. “He looks like a good man. And I like that he speaks Spanish as his first language, too.”

Even those who don’t attend church regularly are excited by the news. More so when they come from the same country as Pope Francis.

“I was impressed when I heard who the new pope was,” said Raul Goler, a native of Argentina who has lived in Taos for 17 years. Though Goler isn’t a practicing Catholic, he said he “really liked the news.”

“See, the pope and I lived in the same neighborhood, Flores, and attended the same church there,” Goler said. He paused, smiled and added, “We Argentineans have a little bit of everything. We produce the best football players in the world, we dance tango well and now we have an Argentine-born pope.”