After a surprisingly short conclave, there was a further surprise as 76-year-old Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina was named as pontiff yesterday.
Bergoglio, whose papal name will be Francis I, is the first non-European pope in 1,300 years and the first Latin American and Jesuit to hold the position in the entire history of the Catholic Church.
The response from around the world has been positive to the change. Trey Garza, a Hispanic lawyer living in the United States welcomed the decision.
“He sounds like the right man at this time for the church,” he said. “The church has been struggling with various problems created because of its size. Pope Francis seems to be the sort of simple man who simply wants to see the word of God shared in a way that every person can understand and accept. He sounds like a man of the people as opposed to a man from the Catholic Elite. Many of the church’s recent struggles might have come from the lack of leadership that understands the world beyond Europe. I hope that his unique background brings new leadership and perspective to the church which affects so many people outside of Rome,” he said.
Bergoglio’s choice of the name Francis, a name synonymous with peace, poverty and a simple way of life, is representative of the Jesuit order he is part of. Jesuits are part of the Society of Jesus, a religious order of the Roman Catholic Church known for their missionary work, intellectual research and work in education across the globe.
Father Adrian Porter, a member of the Jesuit Institute in the UK and of the St. Ignatius College in Enfield, told The Archer of the pride felt by his order.
“Jesuits around the world are very surprised,” he said. “We are very pleased and honoured that somebody that comes from St. Ignacius and the Jesuit tradition has been chosen for this office. It’s a vote of confidence in the man and the tradition and the spirit he brings to this new job.”
Fr. Porter also said he hopes having a Jesuit pope will increase the profile of his order and their work, an order that usually steers clear of the limelight. “I think it will certainly increase interest in who we are and what we do,” he said. “We actually take a promise not to become bishops. The idea is that we don’t seek those sorts of offices but sometimes we are asked to do so by Rome. Rome simply says we want you to be the bishop of so-and-so and when that happens you can’t really say no as ultimately there’s our vow of obedience to the pope.”
The Arch-bishop of Cardiff also welcomed the announcement of the new pope in a statement released this morning.
“I welcome the election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Pope Francis I,” it read. “He can be assured of the prayers of the whole Archdiocese of Cardiff. The election of a new Pope is always a new beginning and I look to the future with hope and confidence. Seeing the crowds in St Peter’s Square on Wednesday evening who could fail to be struck by the global nature of the Church and its universal mission.”
Many around the world have been celebrating the election of Cardinal Bergoglio but in Italy the announcement was noticeably muted.
“I think in Vatican city yesterday most of the people were from other countries, because they don’t experience locally what the church does or better doesn’t do, as Italians do,” Kelevra Toscanini from Venice said. “The church should take less care about money for itself and helping more who is in need. I don’t know much about this new pope but he said he wants to follow Saint Francis’ way of life, so I am waiting to see if he is going to give away his and church wealth to the poor. You should know Vatican owns tons of property in Italy and not just there where they don’t pay any tax for example.”
Toscanini also said that if the Vatican is serious about change, he expects Pope Francis I to clear out any priest involved in the recent child molestations that have plagued the church in recent years.
In terms of policy, the new pope is known to be very orthodox on sexual matters and liberal on social justice, protesting and campaigning many times on behalf of the impoverished in South America and it is this human touch and closeness to the common man that makes him so attractive explained Fr. Porter.
“I don’t think he’s a person many people in Europe know well at all,” he said. “He’s been a bishop and a priest in his own country and his own city for more or less all of his career but I think that in itself says an enormous amount that you don’t have a courier man now you have a man with direct pastoral experience which I think will please a huge number of ordinary Catholics and ordinary priests.
“The reform of a courier is something that everybody talks about. It’s a sort of dull technical thing but what it implies obviously is much more collegiality (shared authority) among the bishops of the world who are out there in the dioceses and in the countries around the world.”
Fr. Porter also explained that having a non-European pope shows the expanding nature of the church as it embarks on a fresh new phase.
“Nearly half the world’s Catholic population lives in Latin America,” he explained. “To choose someone from a vibrant church in such a big part of the Catholic community I think has been very important. I think it represents that sort of freshness and the feeling that this is the beginning of a new era and things will move on under the new pope and I think that’s one of the things the Cardinals wanted.”
Bergoglio becomes the 266th pope and is only two years younger that Pope Benedict XVI when he took over the papal office in 2005. He was born in Buenos Aires where he had served as Arch-bishop since 1998. He studied in Germany and is a qualified chemist and many are hoping he can bridge the gap between science and religion in years to come.
Question marks have been made about the new pope’s health, however, as he has only one functioning lung but the Vatican assured the public that Bergoglio is in good health.