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Who is Pope Francis?

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Former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina was picked as the new pope yesterday and will now go by the name of Pope Francis.

Where does the name Francis come from?

There are two key figures in Catholic history associated with the name Francis. The first is Francis of Assisi is a beloved 13th-century Italian saint, one of the patron saints of Italy, who lived the values of peace, poverty and simplicity. The other is St. Francis Xavier, the 16th-century co-founder of Bergoglio’s Jesuit order. He is one of the faith’s most well-known missionaries, who spread Catholicism as far as India and Japan.

What do we know about the Pope as a person?

Bergoglio, the longtime archbishop of Buenos Aires, was born in Argentina as the son of middle-class Italian immigrants, one of five children of a railway worker and homemaker. He went to school for chemistry and suffered a respiratory illness that caused him to lose a lung before deciding at the unusually late age of 32 to become a priest. He is known as a humble and simple man devoted to the poor, who decided to live in a simple apartment instead of the archbishop’s luxurious residence, rode the bus to work, cooked his own meals and regularly visited the slums around Buenos Aires. He is also a theological conservative.

Here are some facts about the new pope:

  • He’s the first non-European pope in modern times.
  • He was the runner-up to Pope Benedict, the man he’s replacing, at the 2005 conclave.
  • He often visits slums and tries to help the poor.
  • He’s believed to be theologically orthodox and socially conservative.
  • He was against Argentina’s gay marriage laws and contraception.
  • He tried to repair the church’s reputation in his home country after it failed to speak out on Argentina’s murdering dictatorship that controlled the country from 1976 through 1983.
  • The new pontiff will be known simply as Pope Francis, with no Roman numeral after his name. Vatican spokesman Reverend Federico Lombardi quipped, “It will become Francis I after we have a Francis II.”
  • President Obama issued a statement offering his “warm wishes” to the new pope, in which he said, “As a champion of the poor and the most vulnerable among us, he carries forth the message of love and compassion that has inspired the world for more than two thousand years — that in each other we see the face of God.”
  • Vice President Joe Biden, the top-ranking Catholic in the U.S. government, said he’ll go to Rome to attend the pope’s inaugural mass and, quote, “relay my well wishes, and those of the American people.”
  • Remember all that betting on who the new pope would be? Gambling expert R.J. Bell of Pregame.com said that Bergoglio had been a consensus 25-1 underdog, and that at least 15 names were considered ahead of him in 12 books taking bets on the papal election.

Although it’s believed that Pope Francis will try to address the financial and sex scandals that have rocked the Church in recent years, don’t expect big changes with Pope Francis at the helm. The National Catholic Reporter’s John Allen wrote, “No matter what happens, the church almost certainly won’t reverse its bans on abortion, gay marriage or women priests.”

Sources: Christian Science Monitor, Los Angeles Times

 

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