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Merrimack Awaits Impact of New Pope

Patrick J. Lawlor ’13 , Editor in Chief

Pope Francis I was elected the 266th leader of the Catholic Church on Wednesday.

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now known as Pope Francis, is the first-ever leader of the Catholic Church to come from Latin America, where roughly 40 percent of the Catholic Church’s following lives, and the first since Peter, Christ’s apostle, to come from outside Europe.

“This represents a real acknowledgment of realities about the world and the Church. We are truly a global Church, not just a Western or European Church,” said Fr. Ray Dlugos, vice president of mission and student affairs at Merrimack.

The Catholic Church has wavered on its core beliefs very little in the last 2,000 years, which some critics say has been a reason for the decline of active and practicing Catholics. “For the Church to call a citizen of the Southern Hemisphere to its highest leadership position is a sign, I think, that the Church is ready to look at the world from a very different perspective. I find that very hopeful,” said Dlugos.

With social issues so present in our world today, Catholics, especially young Catholics have become very outspoken on issues like women’s rights, homosexuality and birth control. “Pope Francis has a reputation, according to NBC News, of being a compassionate conservative who also helped the Church of Argentina become more modern and progressive after being the most conservative in South America,” said Dlugos

“I am very struck by his reputation for being very humble and living simply and that he chose the name Francis. That tells me that he wants to renew the Church spiritually through humility and attention to the poor and vulnerable of the world rather than preserving its grandeur and power. How that translates into his direction on issues that Americans think are important, like sexual morality and the role of women, remains to be seen,” Dlugos said of the new pontiff.

With Merrimack’s strategic plan calling for the institution to become a “contemporary Catholic college,” it remains to be defined how a small Catholic school in the Augustinian tradition could do just that. Leadership within the Catholic Church, and the vision and mission of such leadership, will no doubt profoundly influence the college’s mission.

“What Merrimack, as a Catholic college in the 21st century, must do is always to take the teaching and reasoning of the pope seriously and to respectfully engage in dialogue with that teaching from the perspectives of all of our academic disciplines,” Dlugos said.

Pellegrinaggio, the student, alumni and faculty pilgrimage to Italy will be at the Vatican for Pope Francis’ first Easter mass.



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