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New pope's 'signs and symbols' charm Bishop John Wester

Published March 19, 2013 9:52 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Pope Francis is "a great gift to the church," Utah Bishop John C. Wester said Friday. "In the midst of Lent, he is a glimpse of Easter."

Like so many Catholics across the globe, Wester is already charmed by the new pontiff's "signs and symbols."

The Argentine's simple dress, his jumping on the bus with the other cardinals rather than taking the papal car, paying his own hotel bill and offering a humble prayer with the crowds gathered at St. Peter's are "little gestures, but they mean a lot," the bishop said. "It is clear that he will make his own path."

Francis is "what the church needs now," Wester said at the news conference at the church's Salt Lake City pastoral center, "to get in touch with the poor and grapple with social-justice issues."

The Catholic Church is both universal and local, and this new pope brings the two together for Utah Catholics.

About 70 percent of the Diocese of Salt Lake City, which encompasses the whole state, are Latino.

Having a pope who has lived his whole life in the Southern Hemisphere and speaks Spanish "will help the people here," Wester said. "He lived amid rampant poverty, walked the streets of Buenos Aires and reached out to people on the periphery of the church."

Francis personifies the commitment to evangelize the world and visibly expresses his faith by the way he lives, Wester said. "He will rekindle the faith in all of us."

Wester quipped that he may have to double his efforts to learn Spanish, given that "there's a little more impetus now."

The diocese will celebrate a special Mass for the pope on Tuesday, as the new Vicar of Christ is installed in Rome.