March 13



Election of Pope Francis

Jorge Mario Bergoglio was born in 1936 in Buenos Aires to a family of Italian immigrants. He became a Jesuit in 1960 and was ordained to the priesthood seven years later. He served the order as a teacher and theologian but his opposition to “liberation theology” and his emphasis on pastoral work rather than critiquing contemporary society led to a falling out with his Jesuit superiors in Argentina.

Despite a Jesuit rule forbidding members from attaining high office in the church Bergoglio was named a bishop in 1992 and became Archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1997. He became known for his decision to have his priests penetrate the poorer areas of his diocese and for curbing extravagant spending. He was also noted for his call for national repentance for the violence and terrorism of Argentine political life in past eras.

At age 75 he resigned as Archbishop but was named a cardinal by Pope John Paul II, whereupon he moved to Rome where his simple living attracted attention. At the papal conclave to elect a successor to John Paul he is said to have finished second to Cardinal Ratzinger in the voting. On Ratzinger’s resignation in 2013 Bergoglio was chosen pope and took the name Francis, after St Francis of Assisi. He thus became the first Jesuit pope, the first from the Americas or the Southern Hemisphere, the first non-European since 714.

Since his election, he has proved an enigmatic leader of the Roman Catholic world, giving off mixed signals about gay marriage, women as deacons, communion for divorced couples, and indigenous spirituality without actually directly challenging received teachings. Francis is perceived to be over-friendly to leftist regimes and has angered theological conservatives with his restrictions on the Tridentine mass. He is the first pope to have an Instagram account.

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