Local Students Celebrate Pope’s Name

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GATES MILLS, Ohio – Catholics around the world are celebrating the church’s new leader, Pope Francis, elected on Wednesday.

But in Gates Mills, school children aren’t just celebrating new leadership, but a new name – a familiar name.

“I was babysitting, and the kids started freaking out, his name is ‘Francis, his name is Francis',” said eighth grade student Stephanie Zbiegien.

“He is Pope Francis,” echoed kindergarten student Lucas Perram. “It’s…it’s the same name of our school.”

Stephanie and Lucas are both students at Saint Francis of Assisi School in Gates Mills.

While the school and the Pope may have the same name, students said it’s a historic moment. No pope has been named after the saint, and he’s the first one elected from South America.

Students said St. Francis of Assisi is one of the cornerstone figures of Catholicism, standing for poverty, humility and above all, hope, something Stephanie believes the church needs today.

“We’re having a lot of troubles interfering with our government and interfering with different governments throughout the world, and so I think it’ll be interesting to see how St. Francis rebuilds our church,” Stephanie said.

St. Francis of Assisi rebuilt the church nearly 1,000 years ago. Eighth-grade student Mat DiPuccio hopes he will hold true the values of the saint the Pope is named after.

“It’s really great to have a living model of who he was and what he was like,” Mat said. “I just hope he does a lot of things that strengthen the church. Give a great example, you know, be different like he’s already been starting. I know he wants to build the church like St. Francis, so I’m excited.”