VATICAN CITY -- The Jesuits gave a warm welcome Thursday to the election of Pope Francis, the first pope from their order, and suggested that he will be committed to evangelizing and to reforming the Roman Catholic Church.
The election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio on Wednesday as pope “opens a path full of hope,” the Jesuits' superior general, Father Adolfo Nicolas, said in a statement released Thursday.
[For the Record, 11:20 a.m. March 14: An earlier version of this post gave the last name of Father Adolfo Nicolas as Nicolais.]
Nicolas praised Bergoglio’s choice of the papal name Francis after St. Francis, the founder of the Franciscan religious order. "It evokes for us the Holy Father's evangelical spirit of closeness to the poor, his identification with simple people, and his commitment to the renewal of the church,” he added.
Bergoglio’s informal greeting to the crowds in the Vatican's St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday, which he introduced with the words “Good evening,” bore “visible witness to his simplicity,” Nicolas said.
Francis’ first appointment as pope on Thursday was at the basilica of St. Mary Major in central Rome at 8 a.m. He arrived in a Vatican police car without the usual papal escort, the Italian news agency Ansa reported. Carrying a bunch of flowers, which he left at the church, Francis stopped to pray.
The church holds relics reputed to be from Jesus’ manger as well as the altar where the founder of the Jesuits, Ignatius of Loyola, held his first Mass after becoming a priest.
“It is a significant place for Jesuits,” said Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, himself a Jesuit.
The new pope left after about 30 minutes.
Lombardi said Francis then returned to the clerical residence in Rome where he had stayed before the conclave to pick up his luggage. “He paid the bill to set a good example,” Lombardi said.
Francis returned to the Casa Santa Marta, the residence at the Vatican where he has stayed with the cardinal electors during the conclave, and where he will continue to reside until redecoration work is completed at the papal apartment at the Vatican recently vacated by Benedict XVI.
Francis was due to hold a Mass at 5 p.m. for the cardinal electors in the Sistine Chapel. Afterward he will break the seals on the door to the papal apartment, allowing redecoration work to start.
On Sunday he will deliver the regular Angelus to St. Peter’s Square from the window of the apartment, even if work is not finished, said Lombardi. That appearance will be followed on Tuesday by his official installation ceremony in St. Peter’s Square.