One of the primary dimensions of the term "catholic" refers to our diversity in ethnicities, languages, and countries. So I was happy to see one of my Latin students--who comes from China--tell me that she was rooting for an African pope (of course, she is happy with the Pope Francis we now have). I was struck that, like me, she was rooting for an African, presumably because of the power of such a choice as a witness to the entire world.
Since none of the famous Vatican analysts considered Cardinal Bergoglio a leading contender, I had looked around at the so-called leading contenders and rooted for Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana. But, amazingly, I now see that the best choice is indeed the Pope Francis we have right now. I do not say this because I share a Latin American background with him--although the Latin American way can bring and has already brought much fruit to this brand-new papacy.
Rather, I am overwhelmingly delighted with Pope Francis because of his powerful witness for putting simplicity and love of the poor at the center of his papal rhetoric and mission. That is a dimension that needed to be reemphasized because love of the poor is, for Christians, never icing on the cake but very much at the center of the substance of the faith itself.
What Christianity celebrates--in the words of Paul--is that Jesus became poor for us. That coming down into poverty reveals the nature of God, who is love. There is nothing more doctrinally orthodox than this affirmation from the words of Paul in the Letter to the Philippians. (By the way, the demolishing of ethnic barriers is also a central theme of Paul's writings--and hence of most of the New Testament and of Christianity, given that Paul's mission was to welcome all nations to the new covenant.)
Yes, a Chinese Catholic and a Hispanic Catholic were rooting for an African Catholic. And yet we are both delighted with our Latin American pope for all peoples everywhere, especially for the poorest among us. God knows best.