What we know about Pope Francis I

Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope Francis I on Wendesday when elected to the position by the conclave. Before coming to … Continued

Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope Francis I on Wendesday when elected to the position by the conclave. Before coming to Rome, the pope spent most of his life at home in Argentina, “overseeing churches and shoe-leather priests,” according to the Associated Press:

Bergoglio, 76, reportedly got the second-most votes after Joseph Ratzinger in the 2005 papal election, and he has long specialized in the kind of pastoral work that some say is an essential skill for the next pope. In a lifetime of teaching and leading priests in Latin America, which has the largest share of the world’s Catholics, Bergoglio has shown a keen political sensibility as well as the kind of self-effacing humility that fellow cardinals value highly, says his official biographer, Sergio Rubin.

Bergoglio would likely encourage the church’s 400,000 priests to hit the streets to capture more souls, Rubin said in an Associated Press interview. He is also most comfortable taking a low profile, and his personal style is the antithesis of Vatican splendor. “It’s a very curious thing: When bishops meet, he always wants to sit in the back rows. This sense of humility is very well seen in Rome,” Rubin said.

Bergoglio is known for modernizing an Argentine church that had been among the most conservative in Latin America.

As Argentina’s top church official, he’s never lived in the ornate church mansion in Buenos Aires, preferring a simple bed in a downtown room heated by a small stove on frigid weekends. For years, he took public transportation around the city and cooked his own meals.

Jason Horowitz gauged audience reaction from St Peter’s Square. Even though the crowd didn’t know much about the new pope, they seemed to like him already:

“We don’t know a lot about him,” said Silvia Napolitano, 62, as she walked out of the square with a friend. “It seems he has a very direct connection with the people. He seems simple. And we like Argentines, they’re open and sociable. You can tell from the way he speaks with that soft Italian accent.”

A group from Uruguay and Mexico celebrated together in the square. “It’s an opening to a continent that is full of faithful that has been ignored,” said Carlos Becerril, 35, from Mexico. “We will now all be heard more strongly.”

We do know that Pope Francis I is a fan of opera, Mark Berman wrote:

Looking for more information on Pope Francis I? Perhaps something humanizing, something that can help you understand the man who was just elected head of the church?

NPR points out a tidbit gleaned from Brian Williams of NBC News. Williams asked Cardinal Edward Egan about the new pope, and Egan replied:

“And I think you might be interested to know, Brian, that I sent him a couple of Metropolitan Opera recordings. He’s a great follower of our opera here in New York and I always say, ‘When are you going to come and stay with me? We’ll see something in New York.’ He’s a wonderful gentleman.”

This is also the first Jesuit pope elected, according to Melissa Bell:

Among the many firsts for the new pope, Cardinal Bergoglio’s rise to Pope Francis I makes this the first time a Jesuit will assume the role.

The Jesuits were founded by Ignatius of Loyola, a follower of St. Francis of Assisi, and the theology tends toward “the open and positive,” religion reporter Michelle Boorstein writes. Jesuits were the first Catholics in the American colonies. Boorstein said:

“Jesuits are often seen as rebels, and the Vatican shut down the order for several decades in the late 1700s because of the perception that its members were meddling in Colonial politics. In recent decades, Jesuits have been associated with high-profile activism, such as in Latin America and, earlier, the protests against the Vietnam War.

Because Jesuits tend to work within the culture — in schools, research and cultural institutions — they sometimes are seen as less wary of contemporary Western life than Catholic Church officialdom.”


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  • Mary Plante

    Pope Francis will not be Francis I until their is a Francis II. Pope John Paul I broke that naming convention when he added the Roman numeral after his name but the convention still holds.

    Thanks to John Allen at NCR we know a bit more about the new pope and about protocol surrounding papal names.