Francis is a pope of firsts

Jorge Mario Bergoglio is papacy's first Jesuit, first Latin American, first Francis

By Mary Frances Schjonberg
Posted Mar 13, 2013
Newly elected Pope Francis I, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, appears on the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica after being elected by the conclave of cardinals, at the Vatican, March 13, 2013. White smoke rose from the Sistine Chapel chimney and the bells of St. Peter's Basilica rang out on Wednesday, signaling that Roman Catholic cardinals had elected a pope to succeed Benedict XVI. Photo: Reuters/Dylan Martinez

Newly elected Pope Francis, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, appears on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica after being elected by the conclave of cardinals, at the Vatican, March 13, 2013. White smoke rose from the Sistine Chapel chimney and the bells of St. Peter’s Basilica rang out on Wednesday, signaling that Roman Catholic cardinals had elected a pope to succeed Benedict XVI. Photo: Reuters/Dylan Martinez

[Episcopal News Service] Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, 76, was elected March 13 by the cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church to succeed Pope Benedict XVI.

Bergoglio, the first Jesuit and the first cardinal from Latin America ever to be elected pope, chose the name Francis.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said in a statement that the Episcopal Church “will pray for the new Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis I, and for the possibility of constructive dialogue and cooperation between our churches.”

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby also issued a statement. “We wish Pope Francis every blessing in the enormous responsibilities that he has assumed on behalf of Roman Catholics around the world,” he said, calling the new pontiff “a compassionate pastor of real stature who has served the poor in Latin America, and whose simplicity and holiness of life is remarkable.”

While many observers assumed that Bergoglio took the name Francis in a signal he hopes to emulate the humility of the man who founded the Franciscan order, a man named Francis was significant in the early days of the Jesuits. Francis Xavier, one of the first seven Jesuits, was a student of Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus. Some consider the two to be the co-founders of the order. Early in their history, the Jesuits ran afoul of the pope, the Roman Curia and some nations more than once, but mostly for political and economic reasons rather than theological ones.

Bergoglio had been archbishop of Buenos Aires since 1998. He was made a cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 2001. He is the first non-European to lead the Roman Catholic Church in more than 1,000 years, according to reports.

Bergoglio was born in Buenos Aires to parents of Italian heritage. It is said that Bergoglio refused to live in the palatial bishop residence in Buenos Aires and took public transportation to work rather than ride in a limousine. He is also said to cook his own meals.

The National Catholic Reporter reported in a profile 10 days before his election that Bergoglio was runner-up in the 2005 conclave that elected his predecessor, Benedict XVI.

The CIA’s World Factbook says that Argentina is nominally a Roman Catholic nation with 92 percent claiming that affiliation and less than 20 percent practicing. About 39 percent of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics live in Latin America.

White smoke billowed from the chimney atop the Sistine Chapel at 7:06 p.m. local time (2:06 p.m. EST) but Bergoglio did not appear publicly until more than an hour later.

The bells of St. Peter’s Basilica started ringing and the thousands of people waiting in the rain in St. Peter’s Square began to cheer. Others began rushing to the square. The crowd – “that goes on as far as the eye can see,” according NBC news anchor Brian Williams — chanted “Viva il Papa” even before Bergoglio appeared.

The first man who appeared on the balcony was Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue in the Roman Curia, who announced “Habemus Papam” – “We have a pope” – and the Latin name Franciscus.

Francis appeared on the balcony of St. Peter’s facade, known as the Loggia of the Blessings, about 8:20 p.m. (3:20 pm. EDT) to speak to the vast crowd and to give his first papal blessing.

“First of all let us all pray for the pope emeritus,” he said early in his remarks, leading the crowd in the Lord’s Prayer and a Hail Mary. He spoke in Italian with what some recognized as a slight Spanish accent.

“I ask a favor, before the bishop blesses the people, I ask the people to bless the bishop,” he said. He called for a moment of silence and bowed his head to the crowd.

After giving his blessing, Francis said: “Thank you for the welcome. See you soon, tomorrow I want to pray to the Madonna. Good night and good rest.

Retired New York Cardinal Timothy Eagan spoke about Francis on NBC news during the announcement. “He is a scholar but he is a scholar who knows how to talk to the folks in the parishes, and that’s where it’s at,” said Eagan, who was too old to vote in the conclave.

Francis succeeds Benedict XVI, who ended his eight-year papacy Feb. 28, after announcing earlier that month that he was no longer up to the job’s demands. He became the first pontiff in 598 years to resign.

Cardinals reached the required two-thirds majority, 77 votes, needed for the election of a new pope after two days of voting. Bergoglio apparently was elected on the fifth ballot.

The conclave started on the afternoon of March 12 with a solemn ceremony in the Sistine Chapel following a special Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, before the secret balloting began.

— The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.


Comments (8)

  1. Nathaniel Queen says:

    I pray for the new Pope; for integrity, willingness to lesson not only to God but the whole body of the church, the people, and for him to be able to discern what is right and what is un acceptable as leader of a troubled church, reflective of this troubled world we live in. May God be with him in his new spiritual journey of leadership.

  2. Dennis Verser says:

    I pray to our Lord Jesus Christ that the Holy Spirt and the Grace of GOD ‘s HAnd Be apon this Man as he asumes the Position he has been appointed to, May his mind and Heart always be guided by love and honesty and rightiness to lead a troubled church and its people. I am glad to see a man as humble as we have been told to take this role and I in Christ service will pray for his sucess into the modern World. May GOD be Glorified in his Work ahead of him.

  3. AliceMarie Slaven-Emond says:

    Am very stunned…a Latin and a Jesuit! A wait and watch will be the interesting part.

  4. Thomas Mansella says:

    A very wise and humble man of prayer. He likes to ride the subway and go to appointments on his own. Very ecumenical– Good news for Anglicans! The fact that he elected a name that no one has used before, tells that he will be his very own man.

  5. Thank you for your summary of the life of Pope Francis. I am happy that a person so humble has been chosen to be Pope. We need him to shine the light onto the right path for our time here on Earth.

  6. Shirley E. Viall says:

    A true model of St. Francis Xavier who has a heart for the people, for all people. We must pray for Pope Francis and for God’s guidance as he walks in the fisherman’s shoes. May God protect and keep him.

  7. GJ Waller says:

    From culturally German (cool) to Latino & Italian (warm)… Let us PRAY for the Church, in all it’s 7 Churches (Revelations)… that we in the world are NOT to gather her, yet we as various denominations are preparing as various MEMBERS of the full bridal / garment for that day when the Lord joins her together. We are fellow Believers, with the SAME Great Commission & Gospel message! Let us sew one part as sleeve, another trim, another the train… Let us REJOICE! Thanking God for the Open Table seen by Episcopal & the Upper Room sincerely held by Catholic. Let the people follow the Triune Lord as he guides, directs and teaches each to Come!!! -GJ

  8. Thank you for the news that I recieved.As for our church and community,we are pleased this news to share and pray.

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