Election of Bergoglio a 'great honour'
JESUITS in Ireland have welcomed the news that one of their own has become the worldwide leader of the Catholic Church.
Pope Francis is a member of the 20,000-strong Society of Jesus, which counts just over 200 Irish members.
Last night the Irish province of the society warmly welcomed the election of Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, saying it was a "great honour".
James Kelly SJ, an Irish Jesuit living in the Milltown Park community in Dublin, recalled working with Pope Francis in Buenos Aires during the 1970s.
He described him as a "charismatic and dynamic" figure.
"On a personal level, he was very good to me. He recognised my abilities and help me to develop them. He was a very engaging man."
Meanwhile, well-known social justice campaigner and Jesuit, Fr Peter McVerry said he was surprised when he heard that the conclave had elected Cardinal Bergoglio.
"I didn't think they'd elect a religious, I thought they'd elect one of their own," he said.
The Irish province of the society was formally founded in 1860. However, there have been Jesuit missions to Ireland since the 1540s.
The first Jesuit school in Ireland was established at Kilmallock in Co Limerick in 1565.
The number of Jesuits in this country has ebbed and flowed down through the centuries, from 67 in 1649 to just six or seven in 1700.