Duke Community Reacts to New Pope’s Name, Background

Commentators note Pope Francis' connections to Jesuits and Saint Francis of Assisi

Duke faculty who study religion have reacted positively to the news that Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio is now Pope Francis.

 Watch a video of Hauerwas' remarks.

"It's remarkable that they've chosen a Jesuit," said Stanley Hauerwas, Gilbert T. Rowe Professor of Theological Ethics at Duke Divinity School. "That's even more remarkable than choosing a non-European.

"That he's a Jesuit says so much about his commitment to the poor...."

In a tweet from Costa Rica, where he is leading students on a mission trip, the Rev. Michael Martin, director of Duke's Catholic Center, said, "A Jesuit who takes the name 'Francis' -- the best of two worlds! Viva il Papa!"

Hauerwas explained some of the significance of the new pope's name.

Read Tweets from the Duke community about Pope Francis.

"That he's taken the name of Francis -- in recollection of Saint Francis of Assisi -- clearly gestures that the Roman Catholic Church not only serves the poor, the Roman Catholic Church is the church of the poor," he said.

"Francis was raised rich. He was part of the military," Hauerwas said. "He received a special gift from God that he gave away everything he had. He preached peace and is the founder of the Franciscan order, an order that -- at least in its early formation -- lived by begging."

Religion professor David Morgan studies how various artistic and communications media are used for religious messages. As the world waited this week to hear who would be elected as the new pope, Morgan commented on the Vatican's age-old use of smoke to announce the election of a new pope.

Duke business school student Chris Roberts was in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and took this video of a celebration of the new Pope Francis in front of the Catedral Metropolitana Francis' hometown.

"The Vatican has endorsed all kinds of new media over the years in evangelism and teaching," Morgan said. "But when it comes to the highly ritualistic matters of representing the institution, the Vatican goes very conservative.

"That is because change suggests loss of permanence," he said. "And Catholicism is a religion devoted to the claim of unbroken continuity through papal succession back to St. Peter, and from him to Jesus."

Once the selection was announced, sociology professor Kieran Healy commented wryly on Twitter about public reaction to Pope Francis' theological record.

"And now the wave of people who seem surprised to discover that, on really quite a lot of issues, the new Pope is in fact Catholic," Healy wrote.

More: For a story about rare documents about the Vatican in Duke's Rubenstein Library, click here.