Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad as compiled by the Associated Press:
By selecting Jorge Mario Bergoglio as the next pope of the Roman Catholic Church, cardinals have sent an important signal to the Americas – and particularly to Latin America, where 39 percent of all Catholics worldwide live.
Bergoglio, who will be called Pope Francis, was previously the archbishop of Buenos Aires. He is the first pope to be selected from anywhere in the Americas, and the first Jesuit tapped to be papal leader. While he may be more conservative than many American Catholics and Jesuits would prefer, it is significant that the Vatican has recognized the rise of Latin America, which for too long been overlooked by this and many other international institutions.
According to 2011 data from the Pew Forum, more than 425 million Catholics live in Latin America, with the largest populations in Brazil, Mexico and Argentina.
The son of Italian immigrants, Bergoglio is said to lead an austere life. In Argentina, he worked to restore the church’s reputation after a murderous military junta in the 1970s was allowed to “disappear” tens of thousands of leftists and people suspected of being opponents.
Yet it remains to be seen if the 76-year-old pope, the 266th pontiff, will be any more committed or effective than his predecessor in slimming down the Curia and moving the church into a modern age.
Yet both of the hemispheres are rapidly changing and, on many issues, the church is decades behind. Will Francis work to change that? The answer, at this point, will await moments of clarity that have been absent during the closed-door conclave.
The Star-Ledger, New Jersey
This time was supposed to be different.
A crazed man entered a school building and killed 20 children and six adults with an assault rifle. The sight last December of terror stricken children fleeing Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., was supposed to be the last straw.
The outcry for gun control – and especially a ban on assault weapons – appeared to be gaining momentum. Enough was enough, everyone said. Surely, a strong gun control law would finally be enacted, with perhaps the assault weapons ban being reinstated.
The ban, which expired in 2004, would certainly have made a difference in the number of children who survived the Newtown shooting. The shooter could not have shot as many, as quickly, as he did.
But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced the assault weapon ban would not be part of any gun control bill, which he expects to introduce in April after the Easter break. Somewhere, Wayne LaPierre of the NRA is smiling.
The Globe and Mail, Toronto
Not since the halcyon days of the Soviet Union has a vote been so lopsided, but there was no fraud or coercion. Ninety-two percent turnout; over 98 percent support for the Falkland Islands to retain its status as a British Overseas Territory. It is time for Argentina to give up its claim and respect the democratic will of the islands’ residents.
A supporter of Argentine President Cristina Kirchner expressed dismay: “We must denounce this trickery that pretends to represent the popular participation of an implanted population.” But as one British pundit pointed out, the descendants of implanted Europeans who have lived for generations on the Falklands have a better claim than the descendants of implanted Europeans who have lived for generations in Argentina.
The Argentine Embassy in Ottawa responded to the vote by offering assurances that “the Argentine Constitution specifically protects the way of life of the population of the Malvinas Islands.” But in 20 years, the Falkland Islanders will celebrate the bicentennial of British administration over islands that were first charted by an English explorer. It is time for Argentina to let go.