Nairobi, Kenya - African priests have welcomed the choice of Pope Francis saying he would bring new vibrancy to the evangelization of the Gospel and institute broad reforms within the church.
The new Pontiff, elected against the backdrop of a series of graft allegations and the leakage of key documents within the Vatican, comes to the scene amid growing threats from paganism in Africa and the sexuality challenges facing the Church.
Religious experts say Pope Francis' choice of name, in itself, is not only a sign of his readiness to confront those challenges through the ministry of the word of God, but also an expression of his readiness to open up the Church towards greater scrutiny.
'He is a pure breath of fresh air,' said the Reverend Father Dominic Wamugunda, the Chaplain of the Nairobi University.
Father Mario Porto, a Comboni Missionaries priest ministering in the cattle rustling-prone West Pokot region in Northern Kenya, said the new Pope must also work towards linking the evangelization of the world by implementing a series of measures.
'The shape and stress of evangelization should be linked with the cultural situation of the different local churches,' Father Mario told PANA, responding to Pope Benedict XVI's introduction of the new evangelization.
Pope Benedict was revered for his brave fight for the world's environment, but his gradual weakening of the Vatican Council's policies seem to be widely criticised within the church, especially in Africa.
There has been a chorus by African priests of the need for the spirit of collegiality to prevail within the church. This push takes into account the fact that both clergy and the laity, must share equal responsibility in the running of the church.
Father Mario said cooperation between the clergy and the laity was so critical to the survival of the church.
The completion of a new series of deliberations on the Synod on new evangelisation, described by religious scholars as a step to make African church relevant, would be remembered as one of Pope Benedict's main successes over the last eight years.
Father Paulino Mondo, the Provincial Head of the Comboni Missionaries, said under the new Pope, the church should move in three levels.
'The new Pope must implement the Vatican II Council, which has been reduced to a sleeping library. He must insist on the Catechism because we live in a world where people no longer appreciate the value of the 10 Commandments,' Father Mondo said.
Priests seeking marriage are continuing to divide the Church, but the election of the new Pontiff is seen as a quick healing ground and most analysts say nothing would certainly change.
A conservative in many respects, Religious Affairs expert, Sylvester Otieno, says things are likely to remain unchanged in the name of preserving the cardinal values.
However, he hoped that the new Pontiff, who has worked with needy people, could be counted to consider the Church's stance of the use of contraceptives.
The Church has up to the moment insisted contraceptives use in marriage would be equal to endorsing unfaithfulness in marriage.