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Pastor calls choice sign of church unity

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Monsignor P. Edward Sadie was taking a nap at his home in Charleston Wednesday afternoon when white smoke began pouring from the chimney at the Sistine Chapel.

"I was surprised as anyone," Sadie said about the speed at which cardinals had selected the new pope. "I'm delighted and excited."

A phone call woke him up to the news, he said. He wasted no time making his way to Basilica of the Co-Cathedral of Sacred Heart in downtown Charleston to ring the bells announcing the appointment of the new pontiff.  

Sadie believed that the new pope would not have been selected until later in the week. He said the quick choice showed cardinals were united in their choice of Jorge Mario Bergoglio as the new pontiff. Bergoglio has taken the name Pope Francis.

"It's a sign that the cardinals are united and agreed on what they were looking for in a new pope," he said with a smile while standing outside the entrance Sacred Heart as the church bells rang. 

He said the sign of unity is good for Catholics and all Christians around the world.

He said the cardinals obviously back Pope Francis' platform, which includes social justice, moral teaching and inter-religious dialogue.

The newly selected pope is also a member of the Jesuit order. This order of the church focuses on inter-religious dialogue and education, Sadie said.

"The Jesuits are heavily involved in education and college education," he said.

Jesuits are known for opening schools around the world to serve the "poor and disadvantaged," Sadie added.

The new pope taking the name of St. Francis of Assisi, one of the most venerated of the saints, is also significant, he said. St. Francis of Assisi was known for his work among the poor.

"Here is a man who lived among the people in Argentina for years," Sadie said. "He lived very closely with the people."

Pope Francis, who is from Argentina, is the first pope from the Americas, Sadie said. Pope Francis was the archbishop of Buenos Aires.  

The Most Rev. Michael J. Bransfield, bishop of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, was also surprised by the selection.

"This is one of the best surprises we could expect," Bransfield said in a written press release. "Catholics should be very grateful to the Holy Spirit for this choice."

Bransfield believes the selection of a pope from the Americas could not have happened during any time other than the 21st Century.

"This historic choice shows that the cardinals were as concerned about the world as they are the Vatican," he said.

Pope Francis is the first pope to be selected from outside of Europe for almost 1,300 years. He is also the first Jesuit.

Like Sadie, Dr. Jane Donovan, a professor of religious studies at West Virginia University, also believes there are many items of significance around the pope's selection. His choice of a name indicates one of his prime areas of focus -- poverty.

 St. Francis of Assisi founded the Franciscan Order, an order dedicated to working with the poor, she said.

"This would be very consistent with the pope's record," Donovan said. "He has been very concerned with the poor in his country."

Although other media outlets have called Pope Francis a moderate within the church, Donovan stopped short of using that term to describe the new pontiff.

"I'd call him a reformer," she said. 

She said he would have to overcome the sexual abuse and financial scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church over the past several years.

She found it very interesting that the new pope was not, nor ever has been, a member of the curia, which is the administrative arm of the Catholic Church.

"The cardinals are looking for a fresh perspective and fresh view to overcome some of the great challenges facing them," she said.

Sadie had hung a sign above the entrance to Sacred Heart that said "Sede Vacante," which is Latin for "the seat being vacant."

The sign has hung along the Leon Sullivan Way entrance to the church since Pope Benedict resigned.

On Wednesday, Sadie climbed a ladder to remove the sign with a smile on his face because the seat is vacant no longer.

"This is just wonderful," he said.

Contact writer Paul Fallon at or 304-348-4817. Follow him at ;


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