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Durban - A KwaZulu-Natal-based Argentinian Roman Catholic bishop on Thursday spoke highly of the newly elected Pope Francis.
Bishop Jose Ponce De Leon, who is based in Ngwavuma, northern KwaZulu-Natal, said he met the new pope in May 2011 when he was on a church mission in Buenos Aires.
“He is a simple man, of no extravagant living. When I met him he was on his way to visit an Aids orphanage in downtown (Buenos Aires). I also heard that he usually visited the sick.
“Even when we visited him in Argentina, he was not staying in the bishop/cardinal’s house, but in a smaller house. I was so humbled to have met such a down-to-earth man,” said Ponce De Leon.
Other South African religious groupings also welcomed the election of the new pope.
Chairman of the Diakonia Council of Churches, Ivan Booth, said: “I am impressed with his humbleness. I read in the paper that he cooked for himself. That explains his simple lifestyle, which the world needs. The church needs someone with strong leadership skills as they have not been enjoying positive press coverage recently,” Booth said.
Dr Faisal Suliman, director of the SA Muslim Network, said the election of Pope Francis was a positive development and a step in the right direction for the Catholic Church.
He said they hoped the new pope would play a greater role in highlighting how the war on terror had left many Muslims displaced in their own countries.
“Pope Francis is from a non-European country that has a history of colonisation and he understands the effects of dispossession in one’s own country and first world atrocities to non-European countries.
“I think he will be the right man of cloth to play an active role to mobilise for peace in the Middle East,” Suliman said.