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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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New pope inspires local Catholics

A Jesuit pope gives Inland Northwest Catholics a reason to celebrate, especially with the region’s connection to the Society of Jesus through Gonzaga University.

The conclave’s results surprised the Rev. Frank Case, Gonzaga’s vice president of mission, who expected another pope from Europe. He notes that the majority of the Catholic population is in the Southern Hemisphere.

“The church has for many years been centered in Europe,” Case said. “It’s good to have the voice for the poor articulated (in the Vatican).”

Case does not expect major change in the church’s teachings and lessons because the new pope’s social views lean conservative, he said.

Case worked in Vatican City for almost two decades, but only knew Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, by reputation for his commitment to social justice.

Case plans to support the pope in any direction he takes.

“I can look forward to sitting and waiting and seeing what the pope wants to say to the world,” Case said. “I think we have to listen to him first.”

As for Gonzaga’s chances in March Madness, Case has no idea if the new pope likes basketball.

But “I hope he can put in a good word for us,” Case said.

The white smoke that announces a new pope has been chosen also signals a great day for the Catholic Diocese of Spokane.

Bishop Blase Cupich views the new pope as straightforward and personal after Francis invited his audience to pray with him as he stood on the balcony at St. Peter’s Basilica.

The pope’s chosen name honors an Italian saint who followed a simple lifestyle, Cupich said, a path the pope also expressed in his speech.

“I see it as a renewal of the church,” Cupich said.

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