My friend Patricia isn't just happy.
And with good reason. She is a faithful, believing Catholic from Argentina.
So the new pope of the Roman Catholic Church — the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, and now Pope Francis — is HER pope.
And she couldn't be more pleased — unless, of course, Pope Francis also happened to be a fan of her father's favorite Argentine soccer team, San Lorenzo de Almagro.
Which, of course, he is.
"It's almost overwhelming," she said on the day the white smoke curled from the Vatican chimney signaling the election of the new pope. "I'm trying to take it all in."
She had more to take in when her cousin, Jose, called. Jose is a parish priest in Argentina who has known and worked with the new pope personally. From Jose she learned that the new pope didn't become a priest until he was 33; that he studied chemical engineering and taught literature; that his favorite writers are Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Argentine essayist Jorge Luis Borges; and that he loves opera, tango and soccer — especially of the blue and red San Lorenzo de Almagro variety.
But not necessarily in that order.
Father/Cousin Jose also told her about the new pope's great heart and compassion — how he eschewed the trappings of his office as a cardinal and chose to live in an apartment and do his own cooking rather than live in the huge estate that was available to him.
Jose even sent Patricia a photo that he had snapped of the then-cardinal while he was riding mass transit in Buenos Aires, as opposed to the chauffeur-driven limousine that he could have employed.
"I love that he is from Argentina," Patricia said. "But even more, I love that he seems to be a good man."
I think that applies to all of us, whether or not we are Catholic. Maybe ESPECIALLY if we are not Catholic.
The pope is one of hundreds of powerful leaders who make a difference in the world in which we live — for good and for ill. Even if he isn't your pope in the same way that he is Patricia's pope, he is important to 1.2 billion of our fellow travelers on this planet. He makes a difference in their lives — and by extension, in ours. And so it is appropriate that people of faith all over the world — Catholic or otherwise — are praying for the successful compassionate ministry of this humble, gentle man who is now known forever as Pope Francis.
When you stop and think about it, the same thing is true of other national and world leaders.
While they may not be the people for whom we voted or lobbied, they are the ones who are now charged with making decisions that impact our lives and the lives of everyone we love. We don't have to support them politically to support them with our prayers. In fact, a compelling case could be made to suggest that it makes more sense to pray for a political leader you DON'T trust and believe in than it does to pray for one you DO.
And so we pray for them. For all of them — ours and others'. We want them to be successful, don't we? We want them to do well. And we pray that God will lead them to lead others to do good.
Because when they do, that makes the world a better place for all of us.
Better — and infinitely more joyful.
To read more by Joseph B. Walker, please go to www.josephbwalker.com.
Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company