Press digest

The following are the top stories in the Maltese and overseas press. The media is focused on the election of the new Pope.

The Times carries the heading We have a Pope.’

The Malta Independent  reports how Argentina's Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected Pope.

In-Nazzjon has a whole-page picture of the Pope under the heading Pope Francis I.

L-orizzont carries a picture of the new Pope but its main story is the appointment of the new Cabinet.

The overseas press

The Wall Street Journal reports the Roman Catholic Church's leaders elected Pope Benedict’s successor yesterday evening in a day that was rich in ritual but broke with tradition – placing the world's 1.2 billion Catholics under the direction of a Jesuit from the New World, both firsts in Christianity's 2,000-year history. Argentina's Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the 76-year-old archbishop of Buenos Aires, emerged on the balcony of St Peter's Basilica here Wednesday evening and was introduced as Pope Francis I. A crowd of more than 100,000 pilgrims in the square below sounded cheers of “Viva il Papa” as he urged a “great fraternity” for the global church.

After being elected pontiff, Pope Francis called his predecessor. Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, himself a Jesuit, had earlier informed Ansa that Benedict was following the conclave from the pontifical summer residence at Castel Gandolfo  “ with great spiritual participation”, but he would not attend his successor's inaugural mass next Tuesday, March 19,  the day of Saint Joseph, patron saint of the church. Francis I would visit Benedict later today after receiving cardinals, both electors who participated in the conclave and those who did not, in the Sistine Chapel. He would lead his first Angelus as pope in St Peter's Square on Sunday.

Pope Francis I – who enjoyed dancing the tango with his girlfriend as a young man in Buenos Aires – has been given a warm welcome by leaders and faithful worldwide after being elected the new head of the Catholic Church on Wednesday. The New York Times quotes UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon saying he looked forward to working with the Vatican under the “wise leadership” of the new pope.

EU Observer says that in a joint statement, EU President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President José Manuel Barroso wished Francis I “a long and blessed pontificate”in which he can “defend and promote the fundamental values of peace, solidarity and human dignity''.

CNN says US President Barack Obama offered his “warm wishes” to Francis I and said that he was looking forward to working with the new head of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics. “As the first pope from the Americas, his selection also speaks to the strength and vitality of a region that is increasingly shaping our world and, alongside millions of Hispanic Americans, those of us in the United States share the joy of this historic day” said Obama.

According to Deutsche Welle, Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel was among the first to congratulate the new pope, saying she did so “wholeheartedly”. She said she was “especially happy for the Christians of Latin America”.

In the Argentine capital, an explosion of joy greeted the news that Cardinal Bergoglio was pope. Clarin quotes President Cristina Kirchner saying via Twitter that she hoped the election of her compatriot as pope will bear fruit for “justice, equality, fraternity and peace in the world”.

Il Tempo reports outgoing Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti sent his regards “brimming with hope and faith”. He went on to comment on Italy's historic ties to his birthplace of Argentina and the name Francis, after St Francis of Assisi, one of Italy's patron saints.

La Gazzetta del Sud says Ahmed el-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar and the diplomatic advisor to one of the most influential figures for Sunni Muslims, hoped the change of pope could help normalise relations with the Islamic world. Rome's Chief Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni sent his best wishes to Francis “so that he can lead the Catholic Church with strength and wisdom in the coming years”.

Avvenire reports the official Twitter account of the British Embassy to the Holy See also wished Francis well. “The British Embassy to the Holy See joins the Prime Minister @Number10gov in welcoming the election of His Holiness Pope Francis I,” it said via Twitter. Britain is engaged in a sovereignty dispute with Francis's homeland over the Falkland Islands. The two nations fought a war over the islands in 1982.

Peru’s El Comercio points out that that his election comes just as Latin America celebrates 200 years of independence from European countries. “They have chosen a pope who will probably start a new evangelisation – this time it will be from Latin America to Europe.”

Argentina's La Nación reports that soccer star Diego Maradona said he was happy about the election. “As soon as I come to Italy I hope to get an audience with him,” the former Napoli player and ex-Argentina coach told his Italian lawyer Angelo Pisani on the phone from Dubai. One organisation is especially happy: The football club San Lorenzo de Almagro, which tweeted Bergoglio's membership card.



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