For Father Ariel Hernandez, pastor of the Parish of the Holy Cross in Bridgeton, Wednesday was not a day he will soon forget, as one of his own Argentinian countrymen was elected the Bishop of Rome.
Although he was born in Cordoba, Father Hernandez couldn’t help feeling a connection with the Buenos Aires-born Pope.
“I was transported to my country when I heard the news,” he said. “I feel close to Pope Francis because he is from my country.”
Father Hernandez is one of two priests serving in the Diocese of Camden who is from Argentina, the other being Father Fabio Fernandez, who serves at St. Mary of Mount Carmel Parish, Hammonton.
Father Hernandez watched the announcement from Rome at the parish with staff members, and when Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope Francis, the priest couldn’t help what came next. “I got full of emotion, and started to cry,” he said.
And in unison with the rest of the world, when Pope Francis asked for all Catholics to pray for him, Father Hernandez obliged. “I extended my hands, and prayed over him.”
He has spoken to other Argentinian Catholics from the Diocese of Camden who, like him, “were emotional and crying.”
Father Hernandez has confidence in Pope Francis, and his role in leading the Catholic Church, calling him the “People’s Pope.”
“He will be a humble pope. He is very spiritual, and has a profound sense of the Eucharist, and Blessed Mother.”
Father Hernandez also recognized a grace-filled moment that happened to him and his family, after the new pope was announced. For a time, Father Hernandez has “suffered” seeing his Argentinian sister-in-law leave the Catholic faith and stop going to Mass with her family. Wednesday, however, Pope Francis brought her back to the faith.
“My sister-in-law wants to come back, be forgiven, and believe,” Father Hernandez said.