To the delight of many Catholics (including this one!) the one hundred and fifteen cardinals who participated in this year’s just-concluded papal conclave in Vatican City have, at long last, given the Church its first pontiff from the New World.
Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, has just been introduced to the world as the next Bishop of Rome. He is, as mentioned, the first pope to have been born in the Americas; he is also the first Jesuit pope. (The Society of Jesus, whose members are known as Jesuits, is a well-known Catholic religious order. A number of the United States’ best- known universities were founded by Jesuit priests and remain affiliated with the Society, including Seattle University and Gonzaga University here in Washington State).
Begoglio has taken the name Francisco, or Francis in English.
He is the first pope to take that name.
At a ceremony in Vatican City an hour ago (8:23 PM Vatican Time), Begoglio gave his first public remarks as pontiff. He asked the cheering crowds to pray for the pope emeritus (Benedict) and also for him as he assumes his new responsibilities. He then blessed the assembled multitude before heading back inside St. Peter’s Basilica, flanked by several smiling cardinals.
The Vatican Radio service has begun broadcasting a short biography of the new pope. Here is the transcript:
The man elected to be the 265th Successor of Saint Peter in the conclave, is Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, S.J., Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, Ordinary for Eastern-rite faithful in Argentina who lack an Ordinary of their own rite. He was born on 17 December 1936 in Buenos Aires. He was ordained for the Jesuits on 13 December 1969 during his theological studies at the Theological Faculty of San Miguel.
He was novice master in San Miguel, where he also taught theology. He was Provincial for Argentina (1973-1979) and rector of the Philosophical and Theological Faculty of San Miguel (1980-1986). After completing his doctoral dissertation in Germany, he served as a confessor and spiritual director in Córdoba.On 20 May 1992 he was appointed titular Bishop of Auca and Auxiliary of Buenos Aires, receiving episcopal consecration on 27 June. On 3 June 1997 was appointed Coadjutor Archbishop of Buenos Aires and succeeded Cardinal Antonio Quarracino on 28 February 1998. He is also Ordinary for Eastern-rite faithful in Argentina who lack an Ordinary of their own rite.
Adjunct Relator General of the 10th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, October 2001.
He served as President of the Bishops’ Conference of Argentina from 8 November 2005 until 8 November 2011. Created and proclaimed Cardinal by the Bl. John Paul II in the consistory of 21 February 2001, of the Title of S. Roberto Bellarmino (St. Robert Bellarmine).
The Catholic News Service report on Francis’ election notes that as the leader of the Buenos Aires diocese, he was very much a people’s bishop:
Since 1998, he has been archbishop of Buenos Aires, where his style is low-key and close to the people.
He rides the bus, visits the poor, lives in a simple apartment and cooks his own meals. To many in Buenos Aires, he is known simply as “Father Jorge.”
He also has created new parishes, restructured the administrative offices, led pro-life initiatives and started new pastoral programs, such as a commission for divorcees. He co-presided over the 2001 Synod of Bishops and was elected to the synod council, so he is well-known to the world’s bishops.
Father Jorge is now Francis I – the supreme leader of the Roman Catholic Church. It is fitting that he is is from South America, as that is the continent where the Church has seen the most growth over the last several hundred years.
This decade may well be remembered as the era when South America came of age on the world stage. The selection of Cardinal Bergoglio as the next pontiff is a monumental event for the world and for South America. And another historic event will take place in three and a half years’ time when Rio de Jainero hosts the 2016 Summer Olympics. (No South American city has ever hosted a Games before).
As Francis’ papacy has just begun, it is too soon to know what kind of a pope he will be like. He does, of course, have very conservative views on many issues that progressive activists care about, such as marriage equality or reproductive rights. But in other respects he could be more liberal or progressive than his predecessors. The Catholic Church in Latin America places a stronger emphasis on social justice… and that’s a good thing. This is perhaps the best outcome of the papal conclave that progressive Catholics could have hoped for.
Francis I is two years younger than Benedict was when he became the Church’s leader. His papacy is unlikely to be as long as John Paul II’s, but it promises to be groundbreaking in many ways.
“On behalf of the American people, Michelle and I offer our warm wishes to His Holiness Pope Francis as he ascends to the Chair of Saint Peter and begins his papacy,” President Barack Obama said in a statement released moments ago.
“As a champion of the poor and the most vulnerable among us, he carries forth the message of love and compassion that has inspired the world for more than two thousand years—that in each other we see the face of God. As the first pope from the Americas, his selection also speaks to the strength and vitality of a region that is increasingly shaping our world, and alongside millions of Hispanic Americans, those of us in the United States share the joy of this historic day.”
“Just as I appreciated our work with Pope Benedict XVI, I look forward to working with His Holiness to advance peace, security and dignity for our fellow human beings, regardless of their faith. We join with people around the world in offering our prayers for the Holy Father as he begins the sacred work of leading the Catholic Church in our modern world,” the President concluded.
“The election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who has taken the name Francis, marks a great milestone in our church,” said Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, the current president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “As successor to Peter, our first pope, Pope Francis stands as the figure of unity for all Catholics wherever they reside. The bishops of the United States and the people of our 195 dioceses offer prayers for our new leader and promise allegiance to him.”
“Intense prayer from all around the world surrounded the election of Pope Francis. The bishops of the United States thank God for the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the inspired choice of the College of Cardinals. With joy in our hearts, we declare Ad Multos Annos! (For many years!)”
Archbishop Peter J. Sartain, who was chosen by Pope Francis’ predecessor Benedict XVI a few years ago as the leader of Washington’s largest Roman Catholic diocese (the Archdiocese of Seattle) , said he witnessed the introduction of the new pope on television like many other Catholics in the Pacific Northwest.
“The election of a new pope is an act of faith on the part of the cardinals, because they have placed their hope in God to guide them,” Sartain wrote in a column posted on the Archdiocese’s website.
“For me as an archbishop and for Catholics everywhere, receiving a new pope means that God has been once again faithful to his promise that he would always provide a shepherd for the church, a successor to St. Peter, a bishop of Rome, the first pastor of the universal church.”
“His choice of the name Francis signals that he strives to be a man of humility and love for the poor, and the fact that he asked the hundreds of thousand standing before him to pray for him further underscores his humility.”
“Not even knowing who he would be, I began praying for him weeks ago. I congratulate His Holiness, Pope Francis, on his election to the See of Peter. I promise my obedience and my prayers.”
“As was announced at the Vatican just a few hours ago, we have indeed received news of great joy in the election of Pope Francis.”