Reporting from Buenos Aires, the New York Times' Simon Romero did his best to dampen spirits about the elevation of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio to Pope in Friday's "Back Home A Pontiff Is Honored, If Not by All."
Pope Francis was celebrated here on Thursday by faithful congregants and priests in some of this capital city’s vast slums as he started his papacy on an austere note, shunning the throne reserved for him at the Vatican, but the praise was tempered by criticism of him for his hard-line conservative views on a range of issues, including gay rights and artistic expression.
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 José de San Martín, 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 Martínez, 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.”
Romero eventually found some city residents who admired the new pope's compassion, though did re-air the "Dirty War" charges.
Indeed, Francis is well known throughout Buenos Aires for his crusading work among the poor and vulnerable. The Rev. José 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 Constitución 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.
Romero was much nicer in a profile of Lori Berenson, the American terrorist helper jailed in Peru, in a 2010 front-page profile, "Berenson Tries to Make Amends in Peru." Romero attempted to make Berenson, sentenced to life in prison in Peru for her involvement with the Marxist terrorists of the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA), an object of sympathy.