A New Era in the Papacy

The choosing of a new pope is always a time of anticipation and excitement among Catholics and if March 13, 2013 is any indication, non-Catholics as well. Thousands waited in St. Peter’s Square to see what color smoke would emerge from the chimney. When after the fifth ballot, white smoke emerged, the world knew “Habemus Papum”, We have a pope.

The world waited with great excitement for over an hour for the official announcement to be made. Frankly, it was hard to hear and when the words Bergoglio and Francis were heard, it was almost with a sense of disbelief. Did they say Francis? The newscasters were even questioning what had been said.

Yes, they did say Francis and when the new Pope, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Cardinal of Buenos Aires, Argentina stepped out onto the balcony, the crowds went crazy. Most of them didn’t know him at all but they were immediately impressed with his humble request for their prayers. Who exactly is Pope Francis and why did he choose this most unique name for his papacy?

Jorge Mario Bergoglio is a member of the Jesuit Order. As such, he is the first Jesuit to be elected pope. He is a teacher, an activist and has not been afraid to be very critical of the current Argentine government. While much is being made of his being Latino, in reality, he is of Italian heritage and while born in Buenos Aires, is not Latino. Of course, he is Spanish speaking and an Argentine. He is known for his simple lifestyle. He eschewed the archbishop’s palace for a simple apartment where he did his own cooking and rides public transportation instead of taking a limousine.

Among his first comments were “The duty of the conclave was to appoint a bishop of Rome, and it seems to me that my brother cardinals went to fetch him at the end of the world. But here I am.” He was dressed in a simple white cassock as he emerged onto the balcony and it obvious that his choice of the name Francis, in honor of St. Francis of Assisi will usher in a new era of simplicity in the office of the pope.

St. Francis is known for his poverty and affinity with those who are poor and the new pope already has shown that his papacy will follow as closely as possible this example. According to Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi “It’s highly significant for what Francis means, It means that he is here to serve.”

It remains to be seen what the legacy of Pope Francis will be. This first pope from the New World and the first pope from outside Europe in over 1,000 years holds a unique place in the history of the Catholic Church. Hopefully his papacy will be as historic in dealing with the many challenges that face the Church in the 21st Century.

If his past performance is any indication, he will be a one of a kind pope who will bring a new sense of social justice to an office that has often seemed isolated from the real world. His first two years have been eye opening for many and he has shocked a few and perhaps disappointed a few as well.

He has radical ideas but not about the areas of the Catholic Church that some people want changed such as the role of woman and birth control. These are issues where he is just as conservative as his predecessors. However, his approach to other touchy subject is much kinder such as homosexuality and remarriage. It does feel like a breath of fresh air has blown through the church. It is a new era in the papacy.

Photo credit: Pixabay pope_1424234758.jpg

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