Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio is now Pope Francis, the first Jesuit Pope to be elected by the College of Cardinals. He is also the first Pope born in Latin America, hailing from Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he was archbishop. The Papal Conclave 2013 elected him after five ballots with the white smoke from the roof of the Sistine Chapel signaling to the world that Vatican City has a new leader. Already he is being called ′The People′s Pope′ due to his humble lifestyle, shunning the trappings of office. As Cardinal Bergoglio, he opted to live in a small apartment instead of the archbishop′s palace and ride a public bus to work rather than use a private limo. As it turns out, Pope Francis was the runner up during the last Papal Conclave in 2005 which elected Pope Benedict XVI. So what will the new Pope mean to the world′s 1.2 Billion Catholics?
As I mentioned before in my last article on the subject, there were many within the Church seeking a ′bridge′ between the Traditionalists and Liberals. Pope Francis may be such a bridge. The 266th Pope is the first non-European chosen since Pope Gregory III in 731, who was born in Syria. Yet, Pope Francis, while born in the New World, is rooted in the Old World as his father was an Italian immigrant. So one can say he is a ′2-for′, being somewhat both a Latino and an Italian.
Politically, Pope Francis has a reputation as a combative fighter. He took on the Argentine government of Socialist President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner when her policies of allowing for gay marriage and legalizing contraception took place. So on matters of faith and morality, one could say that Pope Francis is Conservative, upholding traditional values. However, he has also been very outspoken about the widening gap between the rich and poor, particularly how government officials are becoming very rich these days. He recently celebrated Lent at a hospital washing and kissing the feet of patients with HIV AIDS.
Being a Jesuit, the intellectual ′shock troops′ of the Catholic Church, the new pope has also clashed with others within his own order on Liberation Theology. During this fight, he sided with the Conservatives in stamping out the radical, Leftists priests who played major roles in the Communist rebellions in countries like Nicaragua. But this does not stop him from being critical of economic issues. By taking the name Pope Francis, the new Pope is signaling to The Church that he admires the humility of St. Francis of Assisi, who was instructed by God to rebuild His Church.
Pope Francis faces many difficult issues, not the least of which are many corruption matters, such as with the Vatican Bank, as well as with the Curia, the Vatican City′s bureaucracy. Being an outsider may give him a free hand at reforming the Catholic Church into a more trusted and modern organization. The crowds who gathered in St. Peter′s Square greeted the first Jesuit Pope with warm shouts of ″Viva Il Papa!″ Latin America, home to more than 500 million Catholics, are certainly happy that one of their own is now the new Pope. In Argentina, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was well respected, especially by his fellow riders of the Buenos Aires public buses. The 76 year old Pope will meet today with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI as he begins his reign over the Catholic Church.