The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

March 14, 2013

Sharon priest hopes Pope Francis is a firm leader

By Melissa Klaric
Herald Staff Writer

SHARON — "Remarkable," the Rev. Glenn Whitman, pastor of St. Joseph Church, Sharon, said of the election of the new pope and his choice of Francis as his papal name.

"He certainly comes from a very different cultural background," Rev. Whitman said of Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina. "Taking the name Francis is very provocative in a good way."

Rev. Whitman said St. Francis was known for living a simple life and helping the poor, and was instrumental in broad reforming of the Catholic church.

"With the naming of Francis, people may be expecting a Franciscan-like response," Rev. Whitman said.

That should be familiar to many local Catholics.

"There are three parishes in the valley that used to be headed by Franciscans," Rev. Whitman said.

They are the former Holy Trinity, Farrell; St. Anthony's Church, Sharon; and St. Stanislaus-Kostka, Sharon.

"A lot of people in the valley have witnessed the Franciscan way of life, including poverty - the needs of the people around the fringe," Rev. Whitman said.

The church needs firm leadership, he said, adding that he hopes Pope Francis can resolve problems with scandals being felt worldwide.

"He needs to take the bull by the horns and resolve them," Rev. Whitman said. "Sexual abuse, the Vatican bank, and the flagrant needs of the growing population of poor people around the world."

He said parishioners and other motorists out for a drive over the weekend may see yellow and white banners or flags - the papal flag colors - on display at local churches celebrating the election of Pope Francis.

St. Joseph Church will hang yellow and white banners today or Friday, Rev. Whitman said.