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"Habemus Papam!" "We Have a Pope!"
That announcement came from the balcony of the Sistine Chapel overlooking St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City, Rome on the evening of March 13, 2013, day two of the papal conclave. It was the result of the fifth vote cast by the 115 participating cardinals. Seventy-seven or two-thirds of them decided (with help from the Holy Spirit) that the 166th pope should be Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina.
The new spiritual leader of the Roman Catholic Church took the name Francis to honor St. Francis of Assisi, the saint who renounced his wealth for a life of poverty and humility. Cardinal Bergoglio is the first ever to take that name. He is also the first Jesuit (Society of Jesus founded by Roman Catholic missionary Francis Xavier in 1534), and first Latin American to become pope. So, who is this Francis?
Brief Biography of Pope Francis nee Cardinal Bergoglio
Jorge Mario Bergoglio was born in Argentina in 1936 of Italian parentage, and is one of five siblings. Before discovering theology, he studied chemistry and has a Masters degree. He was ordained a Jesuit priest in 1969, Titular Bishop of Auca in 1992, Archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1998, and Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church in 2001. In the papal conclave of 2005, he received the second highest number of votes after Cardinal Ratzinger, the former Pope Benedict XVI. He is fluent in Spanish, Italian, and German.
Pope Francis’ beliefs are, not surprisingly, conservative. Yet, he has visited an AIDS hospice and washed the feet of patients. He opposes repressive governments, social injustices, and societies with extreme liberal agendas including his own country. There has been an ongoing battle of words between him and Argentina’s president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, over issues as the legalization of gay marriage, Argentina being the first Latin American country to do so.
According to a CNN report, as Archbishop Bergoglio, Pope Francis lived humbly and piously. He gave up his opulent residence for a simple apartment, prepared his own meals, and took public transportation. His specialty was in pastoral work. One of the first things he did after being introduced to the people was to ask for their blessings.
As 1.2 billion Catholics, 480 million of whom are Latin American, await Pope Francis’ March 19th installation mass, questions raised are how and where he will lead the church in comparison with his two recent predecessors.