Knoxville — As we told you yesterday, the Catholic Church has a new leader. Father Steve Ebel of St. Anthony's Catholic Church in Knoxville and Sacred Heart Parish in Melcher is eager to learn more about his new spiritual leader.
Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina, was elected Pope on March 13 in Vatican City. Bergoglio took the name of Pope Francis I.
Several media outlets have focused on the many new beginnings the new Pope represents. For instance, the name Francis has not been used by a Pope in the past. As a Cardinal, Bergoglio preferred public transportation to a Limo and a small apartment to what someone in his position could have lived in. He is also the first Pope from the Western Hemisphere.
Ebel does not believe that all of these "firsts" will have any impact on the new Pontiff's ability to lead the church. He views Bergoglio's choices of living more humbly are signs of a leader more faithful to the Gospel than a grand style.
The media's fascination with the election of the Pope, and the numerous "chimney cams" that filled cable screens earlier this week did not bother Ebel. He was glad to see the church in the limelight - especially for something positive.
"I think that's positive publicity," Ebel said. This notoriety may not last as the new Pope moves forward in his new role.
Pope Francis is the eighth of Ebel's lifetime. Ebel said every Pope needs to find his way, and though changes come to the church with each new leader, they can be subtle.
"A new Pope doesn't change things drastically," Ebel said. One of the most influential leaders of Ebel's lifetime was Pope John XXIII, who created a Second Vatican Council to "get fresh air" into the church.
The selection of the name Francis shows that the new Pope is a reformer. Ebel said it is unknown what that will mean. The discussion of how the new Pope will affect things locally is expected to arise in small church groups.
"He's kind of an unknown," Ebel said of Francis. In the coming months and years, Ebel predicts that those who do know the new Pope will be busy with interviews and writing their own tales of this man, to give the world a more accurate understanding of who he is.
As for Ebel, these accounts may not be indicative of how Bergoglio will act as Pope. The position and responsibility can change people. It is too early to say what Pope Francis' reign will be like for the Catholic Church and the world.
Pope Francis will be installed on Tuesday. Church organizations around the world have events planned around it, though nothing is planned locally, to Ebel's knowledge.