When Pope Benedict XVI resigned on February 28, 2013, the world awaited the beginning of a new era which occurred twelve days later on March 12, 2013. The conclave to elect the 266th Pope consisted of 115 Cardinals. White smoke billowing from the chimney above the Sistine Chapel signaled to the crowd below that a new Pope had been elected. The new Pontiff was Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio who then took the name Francis because of his great devotion to Saint Francis of Assisi. Pope Francis was a member of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), an order of priests who take a vow not to accept an episcopal office “unless the situation warrants.” He is also the first Pope from the Western Hemisphere, having come from Argentina.


Pope FrancisCredit: Wikimedia Commons

                                                              Pope Francis - Wikimedia

There have been many changes since that day in March. Pope Francis, unlike his predecessors, chose not to live at the Vatican but to stay in the apartment building where he and the cardinals stayed during the Conclave. He turned down the use of a chauffeur-driven limousine, and instead uses the subway for transportation to go to work, and cooks his own meals. Also, he does not wear the red shoes which former Popes wore, but choses to wear the black shoes that he wore as a Cardinal. Instead of the gold pectoral cross given to the Pope, he wears the silver cross that he wore when he was the bishop of Buenos Aires. These are all signals that Pope Francis is moving the church in a new direction. It is his desire that the Catholic Church should be a poor church serving the poor. No longer is it necessary for priests and bishops to live in stately mansions.

It was reported that, after being elected Pope, he returned to the quarters where he had stayed in order to obtain his luggage and to pay his own bill at the front desk. Furthermore, he had obtained a return plane ticket to Argentina which, of course, he was unable to use. He was planning to retire in Argentina in a home for priests.

Pope Francis seems to make headlines wherever he goes. During his return from a trip to Brazil, he was being interviewed on the plane by journalists who bluntly asked for his input on the homosexuality issue. His answer has resounded around the world: “If they accept the Lord and have good will, who am I to judge them? They should not be marginalized.”

Pope Francis, as the leader of the socially conservative Catholic Church, opposes same-sex marriage and abortion, and holds the traditional views of the church regarding the ordination of women and priestly celibacy. In May 2010, Argentina passed a bill allowing same-sex marriage. Francis felt that the meaning of marriage could never be changed, and offered the idea of calling the pairing a domestic partnership or civil union which would allow each of the parties to obtain the medical insurance and/or pension of the partner as well as other privileges, just as a heterosexual pair enjoyed. In this way, the sacred bond of marriage would not be destroyed. Moreover, homosexuals feel rejected by the Catholic Church. It appears that Pope Francis wants to change this perception.


 Vatican CityCredit: Pixabay

                                                                      Vatican City - Pixabay

Jorge Mario Bergoglio was born in Flores, Argentina on December 17, 1936 and was the son of Italian immigrants, and the eldest of five children. His only living sibling is his sister, Maria Elena Bergoglio, who spoke in this film about her brother’s upbringing. No one foresaw that he would become a priest, although the family went to church regularly, probably more than their neighbors in Flores.

Jorge’s parents owned a grocery store in Flores, and Jorge had a passion for the game of soccer in his teens and thereafter. He has been a lifelong dues-paying member of the fan club of the San Lorenzo de Almagro soccer club, and has been named an honorary member of that club since becoming Pope. Before beginning his Seminary studies, Jorge worked as a chemical technician and as a nightclub bouncer. He entered the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) in 1958. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 1969 and from 1973 to 1979 was Argentina's provincial superior of the Society of Jesus. He rose quickly through the ranks, first as Auxiliary Bishop, then Bishop of Argentina. Bergoglio then became the Archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1998 and was created a cardinal in 2001 by Pope John Paul II. He led the Argentine Church during the December 2001 riots in Argentina, known as the “Dirty War.”


Map of ArgentinaCredit: Wikimedia Commons

                                                         Map of Argentina - Wikimedia

Throughout his tenure, he was admired for his care of the poor. He doubled the number of priests who served the poor in the slums. Even then, he was known for his austerity, humility, and empathy. When anyone spoke out as an advocate of the poor as he did, he was identified as a follower of Liberation Theology. Bergoglio claimed that he did not follow the Marxian view of Liberation Theology, but one that was more in keeping with the views of the Catholic Church.

“The Rise of Hope” was narrated by Jonathan Pryce, and featured several speakers including Jesuit Thomas Rausch, Mayor Macri of the city of Buenos Aires, as well as Pope Francis’ sibling, Maria Elena Bergoglio.

Pope Francis will visit the United States for the first time from September 22 to September 27, 2015. In Washington, he will meet with President Obama at the White House, will preside at a Mass for the Canonization of Junipero Serra at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, and will address the United States Congress. In New York City, he will visit the United Nations and preside at a Mass at Madison Square Garden. His busy schedule will include a trip to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where he will visit a Correction Facility and say Mass for the conclusion of the World Meeting of Families. The people of the United States, who love Pope Francis, are looking forward to his visit and seeing him on their television screens.


The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope
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