As Catholics around the world celebrate Wednesday's election of Pope Francis I, and are joined by those of other denominations, Allentown Diocese Bishop John Barres has announced plans to formally offer thanks for the new pontiff.

In a statement issued yesterday afternoon, Bishop Barres called upon "every person of good will to pray for Pope Francis that he will be successful in upholding the dignity of all human beings in his service to the world."

The bishop will celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving acknowledging the naming of the new pope tonight at 7 o'clock in the Cathedral of St. Catharine of Siena, Allentown. The Mass is open to the public.

Speaking on Argentina Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio's elevation to the papacy, Bishop Barres, head of the 270,000-person diocese that covers the counties of Carbon, Schuylkill, Berks, Lehigh and Northampton, said, "His diversified priestly assignments have enriched him with an acute understanding and appreciation of the moral, ethical, social and political problems of the world.

"From the background that is available at this time, Pope Francis has a depth of pastoral experience, intellectual formation and compassionate care for the poor. We embrace our new Holy Father who comes from Argentina, a part of the world where the Catholic church ids growing and thriving.

"Once again, God's Providence has been manifested to the church through the College of Cardinals."