OTTAWA, March 14, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Canada’s advocates for life and family have warmly welcomed Pope Francis as a stalwart ally in safeguarding traditional values of respect for life — both young and old — and the importance of true marriage and family to a flourishing society.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) welcomed the news of the papal election “with joy and gratitude” and pledged their “loyalty and support” to the new successor of the apostle Peter.

“I joyfully offer our sincerest congratulations, highest esteem, and loving obedience to you as Bishop of Rome, Successor of the Apostle Peter, Supreme Pontiff, and head of the College of Bishops,” wrote Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton, president of the CCCB, in a press release.

“May the Holy Spirit pour out upon you in abundance all the gifts you need to be our ‘rock’, our sure foundation, and to strengthen all your brothers and sisters in the faith”, he said.

Before becoming Pope Francis, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, unequivocally defended the life of the unborn even in cases of rape. He also denounced a "culture of discarding" the elderly, saying at the time that elderly people are the “seat of wisdom of the society”.

It was also during this time that he valiantly fought to have the law in Argentina continue to protect the traditional family, calling a 2009 bill that attacked true marriage a “machination of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.”

Most Reverend Terrence Prendergast, Archbishop of Ottawa, called the pope’s election a “truly a historic moment for the Church when Her universal character is manifested to the world!”

“Pope Francis has sent a powerful message in the choice of his name for the Church’s preferential option for the poor,” he said.

“We are delighted with him,” said Gwen Landolt, national vice-president of REAL Women of Canada to LifeSiteNews.com. “He seems to be a man of noble character, exemplified by a very good life, humility, and sincerity. I think it’s a grace that’s been given us to have such a pope who understands not only the Church, but who understands humanity.”

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Landolt said that she hopes and prays that the new pope continues to outspokenly defend the values of life and marriage. “The most important thing is [for him] to be a solid voice leading us on the values — which are pro-life and pro-family — that have kept society.”

Peter Murphy, assistant director of the Catholic Organization For Life and Family (COLF), said that COLF “rejoices” in the election of Pope Francis.

“This is a man who is in love with God – a man who, as Archbishop and Cardinal, elected to live simply and in solidarity with the poor; a man who knows that the value of human life is derived not from what we possess, or what we don’t, but rather from the fact that we have been created in God’s image, that we have been redeemed at the cost of Christ’s blood and that we are destined to live with God for all eternity,” he wrote in an e-mail to LifeSiteNews.com.

“This is a man intimately acquainted with the struggles, the sorrows and the joys of family life. Anyone familiar with the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, will immediately recognize in the former Archbishop of Buenos Aires, the embodiment of the Church’s teachings in this area – teachings which see the life and family issues which preoccupy our thoughts and prayers as matters of social justice.”

“In short, the Holy Spirit has spoken: this is the man the Church needs now!” he said.

Joanne McGarry, executive director of the Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL), said that the CCRL is “very pleased” with the election of the new pope and that Canadian Catholics “will be impressed with the leadership that he has shown on life issues and with his commitment to the poor and to simplicity.”

“We certainly congratulate Pope Francis and pledge him every prayerful support from the CCRL,” she said to LifeSiteNews.com. “We are very impressed by his strong commitment to the poor and his simple living. That makes a very strong statement.”

One priest from Madonna House Apostolate in Combermere, Ontario, was moved to tears by how Pope Francis began his papacy.

“I was moved very deeply by his beginning his papacy by leading us in prayer”, wrote Fr. Denis Lemieux on his blog covering papal thought. “‘Let us pray for Pope Emeritus Benedict...Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be’. Simple, childlike prayer, gathering the people of God around the throne of God and under the protection of the Madonna. What more can we ask a shepherd to do?”

“I was also deeply moved — to the point of tears, truth be told — at his bowing down humbly to ask for our prayers as he begins this daunting task. Again, so simple, so childlike, so poor — ‘I want you to do something for me.' And how many millions of Catholics around the world at that point were united in praying for this man bowing before us to ask for the alms of our prayers? What a beautiful, gentle way to begin his papacy.”

People of faith around the world are reflecting on the Pope’s choice of the name Francis, calling it “symbolic” and “meaningful,” since St. Francis of Assisi (d. 1226) was responsible for the spiritual restoration of the Church in the 13th century.

In a dream by then-Pope Innocent III, Francis was seen by him to be saving the collapsing Basilica of St. John Lateran (the primary cathedral of Rome representing all Christendom). In the dream, Francis took upon himself the weight of the falling church, bracing it with his shoulder before restoring things to their place. It was this dream that convinced the Pope to allow Francis to start the Franciscan order.

Fr. Lemieux pointed out that St. Francis rebuilt the Church “not by political games or five-year pastoral plans, but by an example of holiness and voluntary poverty, of prayer and simplicity of life.”

Fr. Lemieux said that while the Church today is in “terrible disarray, terrible disrepair” and needs “rebuilding, desperately” he also suggested that the “path of reformation must come from holiness of life, purity of prayer, and deep poverty and simplicity of spirit.”

“Let us pray for Pope Francis that he may faithfully follow the Lamb of God in love of the Father and service to God's people, as the Spirit of God leads him to do,” he said.