Malawi welcomes election of new pontiff, takes name Pope Francis

The Catholic church in Malawi and President Dr Joyce Banda on Wednesday swiftly welcomed the election of Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as the new Pope.

The 76-year-old, who will be known as Pope Francis, was elected pontiff on the fifth ballot on Wednesday in the papal conclave in Rome.

President Banda offered her “warm wishes” to the new Pope and congratulated  Catholics for the election of their new church leader after the retirement of Pope Benedict XVI last month.

Secretary of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi George Buleya said the election of the first pontiff to come from Latin America was a moment of “great joy”.

Pope Francis blesses the crowd from St Peter's Basilica at the Vatican.

Pope Francis blesses the crowd from St Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican.

Richard Chakhame who prays at Area 25 in Lilongwe Archdiocese is quoted by Mana, saying he prayed to God for a “a unifying Pope. A Pope  who is capable of leading the Catholic Church globally.”

However, Alex Kamangira, a Law Student at Chancellor College, a constituent college of the University of Malawi expressed concern that in some Churches on Sunday, the clergy played a low profile on the elections.

“I prayed at Limbe Cathedral in Blantyre Archdiocese but there was no mention of the Conclave,” said Kamangira an ex-seminarian.

In his first address monitored on Sky TV, Pope Francis – also the first Jesuit to hold the post – said “the world should set off on a path of love and fraternity.”

The Pope’s Twitter account, whose profile was changed to read ‘Sede Vacante’ when Benedict stepped down, has now been switched back to ‘Pontifex’.

Minutes after his address, a message was sent from the account, saying: “HABEMUS PAPAM FRANCISCUM” – which roughly translates as “We have Pope Francis.”

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