Pope Francis, newly selected by the cardinals of the Catholic church to be their new leader, has a heritage of staunch support for conservative issues, heralding possible disappointment for advocates of a more “modern” church that accepts contemporary social values.

The selection of Francis, former Buenos Aires Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio, was announced Wednesday, two weeks after Pope Benedict XVI resigned, citing his health and the demands of the church.

Gary Glenn, president of the American Family Association of Michigan, said: “We congratulate our many Catholic supporters on the selection of a new pope and are encouraged by his reputation for unwavering commitment to preserving the lives of prenatal children and marriage between one man and one woman. We will stand firmly with him and defend him in that commitment and pray for his success.”

Glenn cited a report from National Catholic Register that described Bergoglio as “an unwaveringly orthodox on matters of sexual morality, staunchly opposing abortion, same-sex marriage, and contraception.”

“In 2010 he asserted that gay adoption is a form of discrimination against children, earning a public rebuke from Argentina’s President, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner,” the report said.

Bergoglio is the Argentine-born son of an Italian railway worker. He was described as a compassionate conservative who reportedly came in second during the 2005 balloting that ultimately elected Benedict XVI. The 76-year-old Jesuit is described as prizing simplicity and humility and is thought to plan to encourage priests to do shoe-leather evangelism.

When Argentina adopted same-sex marriage three years ago, Bergoglio said “everyone loses” and “children need to have the right to be raised and educated by a father and a mother.”

According to a report from LifeNews.com, he once called abortion a “death sentence” for the unborn.

In a 2007 speech he said, “We aren’t in agreement with the death penalty.”

But he said in Argentina, the penalty does exist.

“A child conceived by the rape of a mentally ill or retarded woman can be condemned to death,” he said.

The report said the comments came in a presentation of the Aparecide Document, a statement from the bishops of Latin America.

At that time, he warned Catholics who support abortion.

“We should commit ourselves to ‘eucharistic coherence,’ that is, we should be conscious that people cannot receive holy communion and at the same time act or speak against the commandments, in particular when abortion, euthanasia, and other serious crimes against life and family are facilitated. The responsibility applies particularly to legislators, governors and health professionals.”

Jerry Horn, of Priests for Life, released a report of his experience at the Vatican when the new pope was introduced.

“A short time ago – as you no doubt know by now! – it happened! White smoke billowed from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel! Before I left for Rome Father Frank took me aside and said: ‘Jerry, if you’re there when our new Holy Father is elected, I commission you to go to St. Peter’s and get his first blessing for our Priests for Life family.’ With that task in mind, I rushed to St. Peter’s Square the moment the smoke was seen. And together with tens of thousands of smiling, cheering, flag-waving, praying pilgrims … I received Pope Francis’ first blessing!”

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said, he welcomed the “new faith leader.”

Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly said: “This will be our 266th pope, and the very first one was appointed by Jesus. So it’s a pretty good lineage.”

Rush Limbaugh said, tongue-in-cheek, “My question is, folks: Will the new pope blame Benedict for everything that goes wrong? If it does. Things go wrong. Is it all going to be Benedict’s fault?”

His reference was to the countless times the Obama administration has blamed former President George W. Bush for current problems.

Benedict, 85, stepped down from the papacy Feb. 28 after saying he did not have the strength needed to continue. The church has been caught up in scandals ranging from sex abuse to Vatican bank corruption in recent years.

The selection process this time, involving 115 cardinals, was steeped in intrigue because the author who predicted Pope Benedict XVI would be the first pontiff in nearly 600 years to resign believes a medieval prophecy indicates his successor will be history’s “final pope.”

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Other reaction:

  • “It’s a genius move,” Marco Politi, a papal biographer said of the choice: “It’s a non-Italian, non-European, not a man of the Roman government. It’s an opening to the Third World, a moderate. By taking the name Francis, it means a completely new beginning.”
  • “It’s the first pope from Latin America!” said Horacio Pintos, celebrating at the Vatican.
  • Vice President Joe Biden said, “I am happy to have the chance to personally relay my well wishes, and those of the American people, when I travel to Rome for his Inaugural Mass.”
  • Judie Brown, president of the American Life League: “Recall that Christ said to St. Francis, ‘Rebuild my Church!’ This is the very challenge that our new pope will have to confront. We need to pray for our new Holy Father, do penance and make sacrifices for him and do all we can to intercede, asking our Lord in our prayers that this new pope will indeed rebuild.”
  • Stenan J. Boquet, president of Human Life International: “On behalf of the pro-life missionaries of Human Life International around the world, I extend congratulations to Pope Francis; as well as a promise of our prayers and fidelity. We were struck by his humility in such an august moment, especially when he asked all of us to ask the Lord to bless him before he imparted his first papal blessing upon the church and the world. We will certainly continue praying for him, asking that the Lord grant him peace and wisdom, strength and courage, and give him every grace necessary to guide the church during this time.”
  • President Obama: “On behalf of the American people, Michelle and I offer our warm wishes to His Holiness Pope Francis as he ascends to the Chair of Saint Peter and begins his papacy.”

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