Editor's note: CT has also gathered reactions from Argentine evangelical leaders (who describe Bergoglio as an "answer to our prayers") and evangelist Luis Palau, who has a personal friendship with Bergoglio.
Pope Francis has drawn much attention for being the first pope to come from the ranks of the Americas and the Jesuits, as well as take the name Francis. But evangelical observers highlight other reasons for enthusiasm for yesterday's precedent-setting election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio, former archbishop of Buenos Aires, to replace Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI after his surprising resignation.
Though the pope doesn't speak for Protestant Christians, he holds an important role as one of the most public faces of Christianity, said Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals.
"Around the world, there are millions of people who don't grasp the differences between Protestants and Catholics," he said. "To them, Christians are Christians and the pope speaks for Christians."
However, American evangelicals will benefit from Francis's conservative stance on issues such as abortion and gay marriage, said Anderson. Meanwhile, the new pope's focus on poverty and his ascetic personal habits could also start a needed discussion about the global poor.
"There's been a lot of talk [in America] about the middle class and the rich, but little about the poor," said Anderson. "Perhaps Pope Francis can bring us back to the biblical and Christian care for the poor and vulnerable."
Because Protestantism is common in Argentina and the rest of South America, Francis is situated to better understand Protestantism than his predecessor, ...1
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