Back home Pontiff honored, if not by all


The streets of Buenos Aires, where Francis, formerly Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, was archbishop until Wednesda...
The streets of Buenos Aires, where Francis, formerly Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, was archbishop until Wednesday, captured the sense of ambivalence over the first Argentine to be named to head the Vatican. Thousands flooded into parts of the city, snarling traffic and bellowing into loudspeakers _ not to champion their new pope but to protest for increases in salaries and antipoverty benefits in a country with galloping inflation.

At the Metropolitan Cathedral here, a steady but far from overwhelming stream of the devout and curious filed inside, where Jos__ de San Mart__n, a leader in the independence struggle against Spain, is entombed. At the entrance, some stopped before a computer-printed photograph of Francis under the words _Habemus Papam,_ Latin for _We have a pope._

_We_ve sold almost nothing,_ said Daniel Mart__nez, 50, who was selling buttons with the new pontiff_s picture displayed on a jersey of Argentina_s national soccer team. _If Argentina had won the World Cup, the plaza would be full. Since it_s the ascension of the pope, people take it more calmly._

Gay rights groups were far from calm in their reaction to Francis, with one organization, the Argentine Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transsexuals, pointing out that he had described a plan to legalize same-sex marriage as a _plan of the devil._ The group called his selection as pope a _radicalization of the Vatican_s position against recognizing diverse families._

Similarly, Le__n Ferrari, one of Argentina_s most prominent conceptual artists, called the selection of Francis as pope a _horror_ in an interview with the Brazilian newspaper Folha de S__o Paulo. In the 1990s, Francis clashed with Mr. Ferrari over an exposition of his work that included a piece depicting Jesus crucified on a United States Air Force fighter jet.

Elsewhere, however, parishioners who said their lives were changed by Francis spoke warmly of his selection. In a parish called Virgin of the Miracles of Caacup__, in an area of slums in southern Buenos Aires with uncompleted brick houses along potholed alleys, a 13-year-old boy, Walter Nu__ez, said he was proud to know Francis.

_He would come on some Sundays and look after me,_ said Mr. Nu__ez, who at age 2 was adopted into a family of nine when his mother died. At age 8, he was baptized by Francis. _He was a common man,_ he said. _He was like all of us._

Indeed, Francis is well known throughout Buenos Aires for his crusading work among the poor and vulnerable. The Rev. Jos__ Juan Cervantes, 42, said Francis began an initiative in 2008 to assist victims of human trafficking, insisting on being called Father Jorge when he came to the crime-ridden district of Constituci__n each year to celebrate Mass in an open-air plaza.

One of the most biting reactions to Francis came in a statement from the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, the association of women whose children were disappeared during Argentina_s military dictatorship, from 1976 to 1983. The group contrasted Francis, who has long been criticized for not confronting the dictatorship, with the 150 or so other priests who were killed during the so-called Dirty War.

_About this pope they named, we have only to say, _Amen,_ _ Hebe de Bonafini, the group_s president and a longstanding critic of the incoming pope, said in a statement steeped in irony.

The New York Times | By SIMON ROMERO

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