CHARLOTTE—Among the many firsts for Pope Francis, he is the first Jesuit to lead the Catholic Church. The news of his selection was surprising and elating to his North Carolina brothers in the Jesuit community.
"When I first learned about the election of Pope Francis, I was dumbfounded," said Father Patrick Earl.
He is the Pastor at St. Peter's Catholic Church in Uptown Charlotte. It is one of four churches in the state operated by Jesuits. The Jesuits are an order started in 1534 by St. Ignatius of Loyola.
"He's the founder of the Jesuits," said Fr. Earl. "He would be the spiritual hero for this pope."
Jesuits are most known as "God's Marines". Members accept orders anywhere in the world, often living in extreme conditions. They fight for the poor.
"The concern for the poor who so many times are the object of injustice," said Fr. Earl.
Pope Francis took on the name after St. Francis de Assisi.
"A very wealthy man who chose to live as a poor man," said Fr. Earl.
Pope Francis led a humble life in Argentina, turning down many of the benefits of coming into power. While his selection surprised Fr. Earl, the Pastor said he is elated a fellow Jesuit is now lead the Church.
"It's a source of great pride and hope for the church," said Fr. Earl.
Jesuits operate churches in Charlotte, Durham, Mooresville and Raleigh. St. Raphael's is also a school in Raleigh operated by the Jesuits.