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14 March 2013

Christian leaders welcome new pope

Christian leaders welcome new pope

Christian leaders from across the world have welcomed the announcement of Pope Francis, whose papacy is expected to be very different from his predecessors'.

Yesterday Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, the former archbishop of Buenos Aires, and an advocate for social justice and the needs of the poor, was announced as the successor to Pope Benedict XVI, following his resignation last month.

The 76-year-old will be known as Pope Francis and is the first Jesuit and first non-European pope there has ever been.

Commenting on the news, Dr Dave Landrum, the Evangelical Alliance's director of advocacy, said: "The election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio to become the first Pope Francis should be an encouragement to Christians of all stripes across the globe.

"As a man who has lived with the poor, he understands the injustices of inequality that beset our world. Alongside this, his strong support for marriage and family life will be good news to the poor."

Addressing crowds gathered in St Peter's Square in Vatican City yesterday, Pope Francis said: "As you know, the duty of the conclave was to appoint a bishop of Rome. It seems to me that my brother cardinals have chosen one who is from far away, but here I am.

"I would like to thank you for your embrace, also to ... the bishops, thank you very much. The world should set off on a path of love and fraternity."

The announcement comes the week before Justin Welby will be enthroned as the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The archbishop wished the new pope "every blessing in the enormous responsibilities" he is taking on as leader of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics.

The statement from Lambeth Palace added: "His election is also of great significance to Christians everywhere, not least among Anglicans. We have long since recognised – and often reaffirmed – that our churches hold a special place for one another. I look forward to meeting Pope Francis, and to walking and working together to build on the consistent legacy of our predecessors. May the love of Christ unite us, and intensify our service in a genuine and fruitful ecumenism that can be a blessing for the Body of Christ throughout the world.

“Pope Francis is well-known as a compassionate pastor of real stature who has served the poor in Latin America, and whose simplicity and holiness of life is remarkable. He is an evangelist, sharing the love of Christ which he himself knows. His choice of the name Francis suggests that he wants to call us all back to the transformation that St Francis knew and brought to the whole of Europe, fired by contemplation and closeness to God.

"As I begin tomorrow a prayer pilgrimage toward my own inauguration as Archbishop in Canterbury next Thursday, Pope Francis will be much in my own prayers, as he will be throughout the coming months and years."