Father Jorge: the new Pope

Seventy seven cardinals from 48 countries have elected a 76 year old Argentinian Jesuit as the 266 Pope of the 1.2billion Catholics. Francis is his name.

Before he became pope he was known as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio. He broke with tradition according to which “he who goes in as a pope comes out as a cardinal.” Bergoglio was one of the papabile. He went in as a pope and came out as a pope.

This should have been expected since according to the authoritative Italian journal, Limes, he was the cardinal with the second-highest number of votes on each of the four ballots in the 2005 conclave. Such information should have been guarded by the oath of secrecy that each cardinal takes. However Limes reported that its story was based on information that came from the diary of a cardinal that, quite naturally they refused to name. Limes said that the cardinal felt that the results of the conclave votes should be part of the historic record. The journal said it confirmed the diary's count with other cardinals.

When he appeared on the loggia of the Basilica of St Peter Pope Francis struck people gathered in the piazza and the millions-strong audience assisting on television as a humble person with a very warm personality. The non-verbal expressions spoke volumes. This was immediately confirmed by the short message he delivered. It was characterised by simple language and deep spirituality.

Cardinal Bergoglio has had a growing reputation as a very spiritual man with a talent for pastoral leadership. He has been archbishop of Buenes Aires, Argentina’s capital, in 1998.  His low key style makes him a people’s man.  He is not chauffeur driven but frequently uses public transport. He regularly visits the poor areas of his archdiocese, lives in a simple apartment and cooks his own meals. To many in Buenos Aires, he is known simply as "Father Jorge."

Cardinal Bergoglio is not one that shies away from controversy when he feels that there is the need for it and is not afraid to move into the public political sphere when duty calls. He took a very strong stand against the introduction of same-sex marriage in Argentina in 2010 as he believed that this would seriously harm the family.  Bergoglio also encouraged clergy to protest against the legislation.

He opposed adoption by same-sex couples saying that this would result in "depriving (children) of the human growth that God wanted them given by a father and a mother."

In 2006, he opposed the move to legalise abortion in Argentina. He accused the government of lacking respect for the values held by the majority of Argentines and of trying to convince the Catholic Church "to waver in our defense of the dignity of the person."

His sermons also feature issues of social justice particularly when he addresses the economic, social and political problems facing his country. He emphasises that people should live together as brothers and sisters and that the church and the country need to do what they can to make sure that everyone feels welcome, respected and cared for.  While not overtly political, Cardinal Bergoglio has not tried to hide the political and social impact of the Gospel message, particularly in a country still recovering from a serious economic crisis.

Fr Jorge has today become Pope Francis. This is the first time that a pope adopted that name. At this difficult time for the Church the name is very appropriate. St Francis has been asked by Christ to build anew the Church of San Damiano. Pope Francis will have a difficult task to build anew the Catholic Church after the myriad difficulties – particularly the scandal of sex abuse of minors – that plagued in in recent years.

He humbly asked for our prayers before giving us his blessing. It is a duty that all Catholics should enjoy executing.

(In the compilation of this blog I acknowledged the use of information taken from despatches by the Catholic News Service.)



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