Thursday, March 14, 2013

We have a New Pope!


Long live Pope Francis!!

A cardinal from Argentina, often described in the media as a simple, humble and conservative man with liberal views on social justice, was chosen yesterday as the 266th Vicar of  Jesus Christ and successor to the throne of St. Peter.

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio from the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires, Argentina, reportedly the lone challenger of Pope Benedict XVI during the 2005 Conclave, won the Papacy after the five rounds of voting in the 2013 Conclave. He took the name Francis as his regnal name in honor of the great reformer of the Catholic Church, St. Francis of Assisi, the 13th century founder of the Franciscan order. It is unheard for a name of a Pope in recent memory but analysts believed the new pope chose the name to signify his intention to revitalize the universal church which is heavily marred by controversies.

St. Francis of Assisi personifies simplicity and humility, two qualities that best describe the newly elected Pope. The papacy also evokes humility and who ever sat in the throne of St. Peter expected to follow this representation of majestic simplicity and naturalness.

Pope Francis is known for his very humble life in Buenos Aires almost living like a monk and would spend his weekend at his simple apartment in deep solitude. He reportedly refused to live in a luxurious Apostolic palace in his archdiocese. His attitude towards living almost like St. Francis of Assisi will be tested now that he will forever live in the grandeur of Vatican Palace with body guards and waiting staff. 

Analysts were stunned with the result of the election as they were expecting a younger Pope to succeed Benedict XVI. 

A keen evangelist and staunchly orthodox on issues of morality, Bergoglio impressed fellow Cardinals with his views on how to map out the problems haunting the universal church during the pre-conclave meeting in Vatican. He is a theologian conservative but liberal on social justice and viewed inequalities in the society as "cries of pain that reached to heaven". In Argentina, he is well-known for his deep humility, simplicity and love for the poor. 

One Vatican worker commented "Cardinal Bergoglio is a solid, pragmatic and efficient man who can do something concrete to reform the Roman Curia (the central government of Vatican)".

A surprising winner! 
His name was rarely mentioned in the news about the Papabili (potential popes) but just like the great Pope, Blessed John Paul II, who was also the darkhorse in the 1978 Conclave, Cardinal Bergoglio secured votes and went on to become the first non-European to be elected as Roman Pontiff in nearly 1,300 years.


The 2013 Conclave of the College of Cardinals astonished everyone when they elected the 76 year-old Cardinal from Argentina. Everyone was expected to see a younger Pope mount the throne of St. Peter after Pope Benedict XVI resigned due to advanced age. But Princes of the Church around the world saw exceptional qualities in him that could help revitalize the universal church and reignite Catholic faith particularly among young people.

Pope Francis is already in his advanced age, at 76 years old he is just 2 years younger than Pope Benedict XVI when the latter was elected in the 2005 Conclave.  Many were surprised (including me) with the decisions of the Princes of the Church to elect an older candidate. Observers thought the cardinals would choose someone who is young and dynamic because the issue of the sudden resignation of Pope Benedict XVI centered on his old age and failing health. Cardinal Bergoglio is hardly mentioned among the Papabili (potential popes). But people who knew the Argentinian cardinal argued he is the right choice for the Papacy.

A son of an Italian immigrant railway worker, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, who had lived his life with just one lung even before becoming a Priest, is a former Jesuit, he is a theological conservative known for his negotiating skills, love for the poor and simplicity. Said to be a very humble, modest and solemn man who followed a lifestyle of a monk, Bergoglio turned down the opportunity of living in a luxurious Archbishop house to stay in a simple apartment and spends his weekend there in deep solitude.

According to a church employee in Buenos Aires who had known the new pope most of his life, "He is a very pleasant, accessible person who used to walk to a cathedral and prayed silently in the last rows of pews".

He is deeply attached to centuries-old Roman Catholic traditions. His ability to connect with the masses, views on liberalism, social issues and conservative approach to the Catholic faith reminded everyone with the late great Pope, Blessed John Paul II. By a strange twist of fate, Bergoglio is also a soccer fan just like the late John Paul II.

His Holiness, Pope Francis, greeted the faithful who waited eagerly at St. Peter's Basilica to catch the first glimpse of the new Pope. 

He is the first non-European Cardinal in 1,300 years to become a Pope and the first from Latin America. His election into the papacy many believed is the result of the desire of the Church authorities to revitalize the Roman Curia, the central government of the Vatican, and to bring back the morals of the Catholic faithful including the prevention of the disintegration of the life of the universal church. Pope Francis I is capable of uniting the divided church and influencing the Catholics around the world.

"He is a balancing force", according to his biographer, Francesca Ambrogetti.

"He is absolutely capable of undertaking the necessary renovation without any leaps into the unknown, he shares the view that the church should have a missionary role that is active and gets out to meet people. He also traveled underground by a bus and not on a private vehicle and when visiting Rome, he would fly on economy class.", she added. 

The new Pope is fluent in three languages: Spanish, Italian and German. He entered the priesthood quite late in life and was ordained priest in 1969. In 1958 at the age of 22, his one lung was removed due to a respiratory illness. He was appointed titular bishop of Auca and Auxiliary Bishop of Buenos Aires in 1992 and named Archbishop in 1997. He officially made a Prince of the Universal Church (official title of Cardinals) on February 21, 2001 by Pope John Paul II.

Sources: Yahoo!News, BBC News, Vatican News

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