Not long after the historic election of the new pontiff, the spiritual leader of Long Island's 1.4 million Roman Catholics called Pope Francis "a good priest and a very holy man who exudes a kind of openness to people."
Addressing reporters Wednesday afternoon at the Saint Agnes Cathedral Parish Center, Bishop William Murphy said he believes he met Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio only once, in passing on a trip to Buenos Aires about 10 years ago. Murphy said he does not yet know when he will next get to Rome to meet the pope, but he hopes it will be this spring or summer.
The fact that Bergoglio was chosen on only the second day of the cardinal's conclave in Rome, and on only the fifth ballot, speaks to the confidence the cardinals have in him, Murphy said.
"I don't know what happened in the conclave, but an awful lot of cardinals had to think an awful lot of him," Murphy said, adding that there had been speculation that Bergoglio was strongly considered in 2005, when Pope Benedict was selected.
Murphy said he was moved my Bergoglio's gesture of asking the faithful to pray for him silently before he prayed for them.
"What a holy and humble guy this is," Murphy said. He added that Bergoglio has a reputation for being a "very quiet and scholarly" priest who lives in his own apartment and cooks his own meals.
Murphy said having a pope from Latin America will mean a great deal to Long Island's many Latino Catholics.
"Latin America has been the Catholic continent in our hemisphere," he said. "I think this is a great sign not only to many people here, but to many people across Latin America."
Murphy said Bergoglio is sure to have his own style, "but I think the teaching of the church will stay what it is," he said.
"I think what really matters is that we are open to what God wants," Murphy said. "If we are open to what God wants then we will do what is for the good of all of us."