Rev. Arturo L. Albano of Mission Dolores Basilica Parish. Photo by Steve Saldivar

Update: On Wednesday, Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina was chosen as the new pope of the Roman Catholic Church.

As the world waits to hear who will become the next leader of the Roman Catholic Church, parishioners of Mission District churches pray for a smooth election process. Cardinals spent Monday in deliberation at the Vatican and are expected to reach a decision in the coming days.

Mission Local spoke with the Reverend Arturo Albano of Mission Dolores Basilica Parish on 16th Street about the forthcoming election.

Q: What is the most important issue for the new pope to focus on?

A:Evangelization of the people. That’s what I would like. In Latin America, for instance, Catholics have moved to be part of other religious sects, [such as] Mormons and Baptists. The Catholic church has been very powerful and big in Latin America — perhaps it has taken itself for granted. A lot of the Catholics have fallen into the arms of other religions. That’s one thing the new pope would focus on.

Your congregation in the Mission is about 50 percent Latino. From your perspective, would it be a good thing if the new pope were Latin American?

It would be a good thing. Oh, yes. I work with a lot of the Hispanics here in the Mission District, so I’m more geared to those from Latin America.

The [candidate] from Brazil, for instance, Odilo Scherer. He speaks six or seven languages. Especially when it comes to evangelization, a lot of languages would be a plus for him. Also [the papal candidate] from Honduras is very charismatic. He is also outspoken when it comes to corruption and crimes. From my point of view, a Latin American would be good. We have our own desires; we’re praying for this or for that. But in the end, we leave it to the Holy Spirit.

Do you think the new pope should prioritize bringing more youth into the Roman Catholic Church?

Yes. In my recent trip in Nicaragua, at the Festival of Saint Sebastian, it was the youth who were leading the prayers, leading the processions and the singing. Angelo Scola, the Italian [papal candidate] — he has very good leadership among the youth.

Do you think that the role of women in the Church and contraception are issues that the new pope should prioritize?

The priority now will be the evangelization of the people at large and the re-evangelization of the Catholic Church. After that, contraception and the role of women, but the focus now of the cardinals is [on] the one who’s really going to promote the evangelization.

Is addressing the history of sex abuse in the church something the new pope should prioritize?

It has been addressed time and again by the last pope. I don’t know how much more … we have to address that. But most likely, he will address that issue also.

Is the election of a new pope an important issue for Catholic parishoners in the Mission?

It’s very important. People have been asking my opinion. People came to mass to pray for it, and at all the churches in San Francisco. The pope is like a shepherd for us. If the sheep are without the shepherd, it is difficult for us to move forward. It’s not just the cardinals [who elect the pope]. It’s important that we pray to recognize the hand of God in this process.

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