Local Catholics celebrate hope of new Pope with prayers, cake

Parishioners at Dolores Mission Church in Boyle Heights celebrate the new pope with chocolate cake after morning mass.
Parishioners at Dolores Mission Church in Boyle Heights celebrate the new pope with chocolate cake after morning mass.
Hayley Fox/KPCC

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At the first Sunday mass since the announcement of the new Pope, Angelenos gathered in Boyle Heights to pray for Pope Francis.  

At Dolores Mission Church,  the mood was especially bright. Father Scott Santarosa is a Jesuit priest and his parishioners were pleasantly surprised that a fellow Jesuit had been chosen as Pope.

Dolores Mission is located in one of the poorest parts of Los Angeles and Pope Francis' public declarations to prioritize the needs of the poor resonated with attendees of Sunday's mass.

"It's music to my ears to hear the Pope saying that the church is the church of the poor...it makes me feel like he's really singing our song," said Santarosa.

That sentiment was echoed by Alejandra Benavides, a resident of the San Gabriel Valley.  She's attended Dolores Mission's  7:30 a.m. Sunday mass every week, since 2007. 

"His humility is inspiring and his care for the poor also, so I hope it [Catholicism] becomes more inclusive for the world," said Benavides.

Doris Benavides is a writer for The Tidings, a publication of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Many Angelenos she's spoken with appreciate Pope Francis' emphasis on taking care of the poor, but are waiting to see what actions he actually takes.

"Most people I talked to they don't really care -- even Latinos -- if he's Argentine or not, or he's Latino or not, it's mainly what he's going to do for the people," said Benavides. "Especially regarding sexual scandals throughout the world, not only in L.A.,  it's a concern for many people."

Last week, the Los Angeles Archdiocese agreed to a $10 million settlement with victims of sexual abuse.  The plaintiffs alleged they were abused by former priest Michael Baker. 

On Sunday, Cardinal Roger Mahony tweeted his support for Pope Francis.

Michael Horan is a Professor of Pastoral Theology at Loyola Marymount University. He said that Pope Francis' low key approach will help him connect with Southern California Catholics  but that will only go so far in solving the church's problems.

"I'm not so sure that automatically a humble and holy presence is somehow an evangelising presence, until the church begins to look at some of the deeper issues that keep people away," said Horan. 

Most Catholics live their lives at the local parish level, said Horan. And most Southern California Catholics will not visit Rome in their lifetime.