We Have a Pope! Argentinian Jorge Bergoglio Elected as Pope Francis I


“Habemus Papam” – “We have a pope!”

In a shock move by the College of Cardinals, 76-year-old Jorge Mario Bergoglio from Buenos Aires was elected on Wednesday to be the new leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics. He appeared on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, greeted by a jubilant crowd of tens of thousands of the faithful, just over an hour after white smoke poured from a chimney on the roof of the Sistine Chapel to signal to the world the election of a new pope. The thousands of people sheltering from heavy rain under a sea of umbrellas had occupied the square all day to await the decision, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Catholic Church’s new shepherd. The excited crowd cheered loudly and joyously when Francis appeared, chanting, “Viva il Papa (pope)” with much gusto.

He is a member of the Society of Jesus, a Catholic order founded in the 16th century by St. Ignatius of Loyola whose members, known as Jesuits, take a vow of poverty and are known for their work among the poor and their scholarship. Bergoglio himself is known as a compassionate and simple man with keen political instincts and self-effacing humility, according to his official biographer, Sergio Rubin. He is also known as passionately conservative, opposing abortion, homosexual marriage, and euthanasia. Many also posit that he will be very instrumental in the Church’s new evangelization efforts and will encourage priests to hit the streets and proclaim the authentic Word of God. Thus, those who had hoped for a more liberal-leaning pope who would embrace more modern ideals are likely to be deeply disappointed throughout his pontificate. Most experts agree that he will continue the conservative themes of orthodox teaching embraced by his last two predecessors, John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

His fierce devotion to the simple life of holiness can be seen by the way he lives his own life. Before calling Vatican City his home, he lived in an apartment in Buenos Aires instead of the archbishop’s ornate and prestigious palace. He cooked his own meals, and instead of taking a chauffeured limousine to work, he took the public bus.

Francis earned a degree in chemistry and was ordained a priest in December 1969. He was named archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1998, and in 2001 he was elevated to cardinal by Pope John Paul II. And according to most reports, Cardinal Bergoglio came in second during the 2005 balloting that ultimately elected the now-retired Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Because of his advanced age, Bergoglio was not considered one of the front-runners this time, but his fellow cardinals obviously deemed him the right man for the job, electing him on the fifth ballot.

By choosing a name no pope had chosen before (Francis), he may be signaling an era of rebirth and new beginnings for the Catholic Church…and he certainly is a pope of many firsts already.

As mentioned earlier, the name Bergoglio elected to take, Francis, is a first in the 2,000-year history of the Church. He may have chosen this to pay homage to the great Saint Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of Italy who gave up his riches and chose a life of poverty and prayer. However, the new pope may also attribute his choice of name to the honored Saint Francis Xavier, who co-founded the Society of Jesus, the order to which the new pope belongs. The real reason behind Francis I’s namesake will be known with time, but the new name certainly is most intriguing, regardless!

Francis is also the first Jesuit to be elected to the papacy. Among the 34 popes who were members of a religious order, the Benedictines dominate with 17. Franciscans have had four, but the Jesuits never have had one of their own as pope despite a long history and a prominent role in the church. The order is “noted for its educational, missionary and charitable works, once regarded by many as the principal agent of the Counter-Reformation and later a leading force in modernizing the church,” according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Most notably, he is the first non-European pope of the modern era – and even more exciting, the first pope from the Americas. He does have Italian heritage, as his parents were Italian immigrants, but he was born and raised in Argentina, which should ignite much enthusiasm in the heavily Catholic Hispanic community. He also speaks the language of the majority of the world’s Catholics, Spanish, although he is fluent in German and Italian, as well.

On a personal note, as a practicing Catholic myself, I am elated at the election of Pope Francis I and join with my fellow 1.2 billion Catholics in embracing our new “papa.”

Below is the full text of his first public address as Pope Francis I:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Good evening.

As you know, the duty of the conclave was to appoint a bishop of Rome, and it seems to me that my brother cardinals have chosen who is from far away. Here I am.

I would like to thank you for your embrace, also to the Roman Catholic Church and the bishops, thank you very much. And first and foremost, I would like to pray for our bishop emeritus, Benedict XVI.

Let us pray together for him so that he is blessed by the Lord…

Let us begin this journey together… this journey for the Roman Catholic Church. It is a journey of friendship, of love, of trust, and faith. Let us pray always for one another. Let us pray for the whole world. Let us have a big brotherhood.

I wish that this journey for the Church, which we will start today… will bear fruits for the evangelizing of this beautiful city.

I would like to offer you my blessing. But I would like to ask a favor first. I would like to pray to the Lord so that the prayer of the people blesses also the new pontiff. Let us pray in silence your prayer for me.

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