Phillip Thompson is the executive director of Emory University's Aquinas Center of Theology. Thompson said there is a combination of feelings for most Catholics about Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina being selected as the new pope.
"Very exciting, somewhat surprising. You look at the list of papal candidates - he was on some of them, he was also not on some of them," said Thompson.
Thompson said Pope Francis represents the growing demographic within the Roman Catholic Church globally and locally.
"You've had a big shift where over 50 percent of Catholics in Atlanta, at the North Dioceses of Georgia are Hispanics. We have this shifting demographics and this is a reflection of that," said Thompson.
Following papal tradition, Cardinal Bergoglio adopted the new name Pope Francis. He is the first pope to take on this name which dates back to one of the most venerated figures in the Roman Catholic Church.
The name symbolizes poverty, humility, simplicity and rebuilding.
"It's referring to Francis of Assisi. This is a very important selection of a name," said Thompson. "He is obviously sending a message here. St Francis of Assisi is a 13th century saint from Italy who lived very, very simply. I think the pope is sending a message that it is time to have a simpler church and a church that needs to be rebuilt."
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