Pope Francis: UK and Irish Catholics welcome new pope

BBC correspondents have been gauging the reaction of Catholics in the UK and Republic of Ireland to the election of Jorge Bergoglio as the new Pope.

The 76-year old is the first pontiff to come from Latin America and his election follows the retirement of Pope Benedict XVI last month.

British and Irish politicians and religious leaders have also welcomed the selection of the former Archbishop of Buenos Aires.

Hywel Griffith, Wales correspondent

"I'm excited to see what he does," says 24-year-old Greg Burke, a regular at St Helen's Catholic Church in Barry.

"If we've got a Pope who is willing to fight for the community, a Pope who has a history of social justice."

At a time when many communities here are struggling with economic hardship, the Church's charitable role is increasingly important, with initiatives like food-banks helping to redefine its place in society.

If Pope Francis is to put an emphasis on supporting the poor and the needy, this could help recapture some lost ground.

But in reality, by Sunday morning, it's the weekend's rugby result rather than the new pontiff which is likely to be weighing on most people's minds.

When Pope John Paul II flew in to Cardiff in 1982, 150,000 people gathered on the city's playing fields to hear him celebrate an open-air mass with a few words in Welsh.

This weekend, a similar number will swamp the city centre - this time inspired by rugby rather than religious fervour, as they fill pubs and bars to watch Wales play England.

The last census reported that a third of the Welsh population see themselves as having no religion at all - higher than any region in England. So what impact, if any, does electing a new pope have on Wales?

Andy Martin, reporter, Belfast

There is a slogan in Ireland: "Keep the faith, change the Church". This has been reflected in some of the reaction to the appointment of Pope Francis.

There is more than a hint of liberalism emerging in Ireland.

Prominent priests have spoken of their hope that he can deal with the terrible mistakes of the past - a reference to the clerical abuse and cover-up that has blighted the country.

The association of Catholic Priests is a union-type organisation that advocates what, by Church standards, is radical reform. Some of its members have been censured by the Vatican for their utterances over the past year.

Another organisation, We are Church, hopes the new Pope will reform the Vatican. It advocates equal rights for men and women and married priests and asks for a new approach on contraception and homosexuality. On these issues there is likely to be little movement, which will please the other strain of thinking in Ireland.

But there are concerns that doctrine could be flouted in favour of modern societal standards, that the Irish Church could atone for the sins of the past by appealing to the masses through a liberalisation.

This not up for debate for these priests, or those who crave a return to a more strict interpretation of the faith.

The Latin Mass is enjoying a revival in Ireland and many young seminarians are being distanced from secular students. For them Pope Francis and his doctrinal conservatism will offer a semblance of stability.

Danny Savage, north of England correspondent

At the Catholic cathedral in Liverpool it's business as normal today.

A small number of staff are on duty to welcome visitors to the modern looking place of worship in the city centre .

Image caption Catholics at the cathedral in Liverpool have given their view on the new pontiff

This is a world away from events in Rome, but people are fully aware and very interested in the new leader of their church.

Margaret Fry is visiting from Hull. She says its "possibly a good thing to have a Pope who is not from Europe and from another region where there are lots of Catholics".

Most Catholics here had never really heard of the Argentinian cardinal elevated to the most senior post in the Church.

But the overall mood of those here today is positive and welcoming. Several have commented though that Pope Francis must address the scandals and problems that have dogged the Church in recent times and take decisive action.

Archbishop Patrick Kelly told people at Mass here last night to go home "with a spring in their step" because of the new appointment.

And, with the archbishop retiring, one of the first appointments by the new Pope could be here on Merseyside.

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