MANILA, March 14, 2013 (AFP) – Philippine President Benigno Aquino on Thursday hailed the election of the first Latin American pope, saying he brings “boundless promise” and the hope of unifying all people around the world.
Aquino also welcomed the election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio as the first Jesuit pope, while expressing hope the 76-year-old Argentine will be able to rebuild confidence in the Catholic Church and other institutions.
“The president, along with the Filipino people, joins all the Catholic faithful as they receive their new leader and meet his proclamation with a sense of boundless promise,” said a statement released by Aquino’s office.
“As the first pope from outside Europe in a millennium, the first pope from the Society of Jesus, and the first from Latin America, the election of Pope Francis brings with it the promise of renewal in the Catholic Church, as it strives to fulfil its mission here on earth.”
Aquino said he hoped Pope Francis would work for “peace, justice and charity in a world threatened by tension and armed conflict, poverty, uncertainty, and loss of confidence in institutions”.
The Philippines, a former Spanish colony, is Asia’s largest Catholic nation.
About 80 percent of the Philippine population of 100 million are Catholics and the Church wields strong influence, ensuring that divorce and abortion remain illegal.
Aquino, who has clashed with the Church in recent months over the passage of a law promoting artificial contraceptives, said the election of Pope Francis was a time for all Catholics to come together.
“This is a call for unity across nations, across ethnicities, to work with the new Catholic leadership towards shaping a world in which each and every human being is allowed to live a life of peace, joy, and dignity,” he said.
“Our administration is eager to work with the new Catholic leadership to achieve that end.”