Taoiseach offers best wishes to Pope Francis

Obama, Cameron, Ban and Barroso also congratulate newly elected pontiff

People react as newly elected Pope Francis I appears on the central balcony of St Peter's Basilica  in the Vatican tonight. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images.

People react as newly elected Pope Francis I appears on the central balcony of St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican tonight. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images.

Wed, Mar 13, 2013, 21:17

The scenes of celebration in St Peter’s Square tonight are a reflection of the great hopes people of Catholic faith all around the world have for the new pope, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said.

“On behalf of the Government and the people of Ireland, I offer warm congratulations to Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio on his election as Pope Francis,” he said.

“He has the best wishes of all Irish people, of all traditions, as he undertakes the immense responsibility of his pontificate.

“We pray that he will have the strength, the good health and the spiritual guidance needed to lead the Catholic Church in the many challenges it faces.”

Mr Kenny said the decision of the conclave in choosing the first pope from the Americas is of particular significance as a symbolic expression of the global nature of the Catholic Church and of the 21st century world.

“The people of Ireland also send our congratulations to the people of Argentina, a country with which Ireland shares many historic bonds, on this occasion of great honour and pride for their nation,” he added.

US president Barack Obama offered “warm wishes” to Pope Francis and said the selection speaks to the strength and vitality of the Americas.

“On behalf of the American people, Michelle and I offer our warm wishes to His Holiness Pope Francis,” Mr Obama said.

“As a champion of the poor and the most vulnerable among us, he carries forth the message of love and compassion that has inspired the world for more than 2,000 years.”

British prime minister David Cameron and French president Francois Hollande also issued statements of congratulations.

Today was “a momentous day for the 1.2 billion Catholics around the world,” Mr Cameron said.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he looked forward to co-operation with the Holy See under Pope Francis’ “wise leadership,” while European Union leaders Herman Van Rompuy and Jose Manuel Barroso wished the new Catholic leader “a long and blessed pontificate.”

The atmosphere across Latin America was jubilant, with people bursting into tears and cheers on streets from Buenos Aires to Caracas, Venezuela.

At the St Francis of Assisi church in the colonial Old San Juan district in Puerto Rico, church secretary Antonia Veloz exchanged jubilant high-fives with Jose Antonio Cruz, a Franciscan friar.

“It’s a huge gift for all of Latin America. We waited 20 centuries. It was worth the wait,” said Cruz, wearing the brown cassock tied with a rope that is the signature of the Franciscan order.