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France salutes election of Pope Francis

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France salutes election of Pope Francis
Pope Francis waves to the crowds in St Peter's Square. Photo: Vicenzo Pinto/AFP
08:24 CET+01:00
Political leaders in France warmly acknowledged the election of Argentine Jorge Mario Bergoglio as the new head of the Catholic Church. Some on the left in France, however, criticized the Vatican conclave's choice of pontiff.

French president François Hollande was among the global leaders quick to congratulate Bergoglio, shortly after he was revealed to the world as the successor to Benedict XVI. The Argentine becomes Pope Francis I (François in French) and is the first Latin American to be handed the role.

“I extend my warm and sincere congratulations to Pope François and offer him my sincere best wishes for the important mission that has been entrusted to him, as head of the Catholic Church, to face the challenges of a contemporary world.

“France, faithful to its history and its universal principles of liberty, equality and fraternity will continue to have dialogue with the church, as it has always had,  to serve peace, justice and the dignity of man,” Hollande said.

The election of the new Pope was keenly celebrated on the right of the political spectrum in France, which traditionally has had more links with the Catholic Church.

Former Prime Minister François Fillon, from the conservative UMP party said the election of a new pope was a moment to rejoice.

“Today Catholics across the whole world are experiencing this moment of joy and communion,” Fillon said. “There is much hope surrounding the election of the Holy Father François. In a time where we are in search of sense and peace, the words and influence of the pope can give light and knowledge to mankind.”

Fillon’s fierce rival in the UMP party Jean-François Copé also acknowledged the historic moment, saying he hoped the election of the new pope would help France forge closer ties with the Catholic Church.

“The joy of Catholics on this day is a sign of hope for the world,” Copé said. “The new pope offers us the opportunity to reinforce relations between France and the Vatican in their joint fight for human dignity, freedom, peace and justice.”

However not everyone in France's political fold were as upbeat about the election of a new pontiff.

“The election of the pope is not good news for progressives in the Christian world nor to the people’s revolutions in South America,” said Jean-Luc Mélenchon from the Parti de Gauche (Left Party).

“He remained silent under the military dictatorship [in Argentina] as well as during the judgements for former military criminals. He is also hostile to progressive priests. The new head of the Catholic Church must prove that he has not been elected to destabilize the liberal regimes of South America, nor to persecute the theology of liberation.”

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