VATICAN CITY (CBSDC) – Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s selection as Pope Francis has come as a welcome surprise for the Jewish community and the future of Catholic-Jewish relations.

Rabbi Noam E. Marans, director of interreligious and intergroup relations for the American Jewish Committee, said on Thursday that the future of Catholic-Jewish relations should be in good hands with Pope Francis at the helm.

“The surprise for Jewish people and people paying attention to Catholic-Jewish relations was all prognostication and the concerns do not seem to have come true,” he said. “We have been given arguably the most positive result one could want in terms of Catholic-Jewish relations.”

Bergoglio, who finished runner-up to Pope Benedict XVI eight years ago, represents the first time a pope has not emanated from Europe. He is also the first Jesuit to be selected pope.

Marans said that, more than ever, the Jewish community’s relationship with Latinos in the U.S. and abroad needs to be strengthened during Pope Francis’ reign as pope.

“The Latino population has grown dramatically in the U.S. and it behooves us as a Jewish community to work very hard on that relationship,” Marans said. “This was a real shot in the arm of empowerment not just to Latinos in the U.S. who embrace Catholicism, but also to Latinos throughout the world and the Jewish community needs to pay attention.”

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