Northeast Ohio religious leaders react to new Jesuit Pope Francis

First Jesuit ever elected

CLEVELAND - "We were stunned. All of us."

That was the reaction from the president of John Carroll University,  Reverend Robert Niehoff, and it was one shared by many in the Jesuit Order when one of their own was elected Pope. The Order's founder, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, felt Jesuits should focus more on service in the community instead of seeking church positions.

"He said Jesuits won't be involved in politics of the Church," explained Niehoff, "and they won't seek Church positions."

The few Jesuits that do serve in Rome do so at the request of the Vatican. The new Pope was the only Jesuit among all the voting cardinals. Niehoff said the new Pope brings with him the Jesuit philosophy of it's founder.

"Ignatius said we really need to be focused on the people and focused on how we respond to God. This is part of what makes us so excited about Pope Francis."

Sister Mary Ann Flannery, executive director of the Jesuit Retreat House, cautions the faithful that a new pope may bring change, but it may take some time.

"Any pope might want to make changes tomorrow. But realizes that there are a lot of people that would be dramatically negatively impacted by that," said Flannery.

She said she feels that the tradition of the Jesuit Order of traveling the world to spread a deeper sense of spirituality, the new Jesuit Pope Francis may bring a fresh world focus to the Church.

"This Pope might be a multi-continental thinker. That's what I'm hoping."

Click on the video player above to watch the NewsChannel5 videos featuring longer interviews about the election of Pope Francis.

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