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Catholics McCollum and Nolan pleased with new Pope Francis

WASHINGTON — The congressional delegation’s two Catholics said they liked what they have learned about new Pope Francis.

WASHINGTON — Like most people who aren’t experts on the Vatican, the Minnesota congressional delegation’s two Catholics, Reps. Betty McCollum and Rick Nolan, found themselves studying up on newly named Pope Francis on Wednesday.

Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was introduced as pope during the first series of House votes on Wednesday afternoon. By the second, McCollum and Nolan were gushing about the new pope’s biography and what they saw as a fresh start for the Catholic Church.

“This was a fantastic day for Catholics all around the world,” McCollum said. “A pope who’s not from Europe, not from the inside of the Vatican, someone from the quote-end quote, ‘New World.’ I think it represents a very fresh start.”

The lawmakers, both Democrats, said they were pleased a Jesuit took over the papacy — Jesuits tend to be a liberal than other orders of the church (though Bergoglio supports the church’s traditionally conservative positions on many issues). McCollum and Nolan said they were impressed by Bergoglio’s name choice, which, the Vatican said, was inspired by St. Francis of Assisi, a lover of the poor.

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“He’s known for his social and economic advocacy as opposed to being exclusively embroiled in the politics of the church,” Nolan said. “I think it’s a great choice, I think he’ll be a great pope.”

 “The more I read about him the more I’m intrigued by him,” McCollum said. “Cooked his own meals, took the bus to work. Really, a man of the people, and that’s what the church is looking for. They were looking for someone who has the gentle hand of a father to guide Catholics.”

Devin Henry can be reached at dhenry@minnpost.com.