There is much reason for happiness, as our new pope comes from Latin America
Our pope is Latino. Latinos in the U.S. are overjoyed that the new pope is from Latin America. Latinos account for 40 percent of the Catholic Church's 1-2 billion followers worldwide, and a faster than anticipated 74 million Catholics in the U.S. In the past 100 years the Catholic Church has lost close to half its faithful in Europe and has seen a greater reliance on Latinos for growth numbers, optimism, and new-found energy in the Church.
Loyola Marymount University's Latin American specialist, Father Allen Figueroa Deck said, "The seeds of Christianity that were planted 500 years ago in the Americas are finally manifesting themselves in the leadership of the Church at the highest level."
Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami stated, "A great day of rejoicing here in the New World, for Pope Francis is an American."
Our last two popes were part of an (until now) broken line of Europeans. Benedict is German and John Paul II was Polish. Both John Paul II and Benedict spoke Spanish, and John Paul II made many trips to Latin America. Now having a pontiff who speaks Spanish as his mother tongue resonates very strongly with Latinos all around the world.
In the U.S. for Latinos, this comes at a time when our Church has been shaken by clerical sex abuse scandals, cover-ups, and in some instances non-acceptance of Latinos as different and not worth involving in parish life. This damage and fighting a secular tide has distanced second- and third-generation Latinos in the U.S. from the Catholic Church.
We hope that despite all this, Pope Francis reinvigorates Catholic Latinos. Presently our people see him as humble and approachable. He takes the bus just like us.
Adeline Torres is director of the Office of Hispanic Ministry. This column ran in Spanish in the Northwest Indiana Catholic dated May 19, 2013.