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Pope Francis Kicks Off Holy Week

Pope Francis Kicks Off Holy Week Andrew Medichini/AP

Urges Catholics to be humble and young at heart.

Pope Francis ushered in Holy Week on Sunday with a mass in St. Peter’s Square, joined by 250,000 pilgrims, urging Catholics to be humble and young at heart—and he even shared a story from his own Argentine childhood. The first Jesuit pope—and the first from South America—Francis has already made commitment to the poor a priority since being elected on March 13. The beginning of Holy Week, Palm Sunday mass honors Jesus’s return to Jerusalem before being betrayed by Judas, and Francis urged Catholics to remember the hope Jesus’s arrival had instilled in the poor and downtrodden. He also spontaneously told a story urging a humble lifestyle from his own childhood, saying his grandmother used to say “children, burial shrouds don’t have pockets.”

Read it at Associated Press

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Pope vs. Pope

It’s a big week for Popes. “Scandal” crisis manager Olivia Pope returned to TV on Thursday and Francis began his papacy. A quick guide on how to tell the celebrated leaders apart.

They both answer to a higher power—she, the swoon-inducing President Fitz; he, His Heavenly Father, of course. They’re both in the business of fixing things—she, the rich-people problems of D.C.’s elite; he the Roman Catholic Church. The Popes whipped two very different groups of devout worshippers into respective frenzies this week. Scandal-heads rejoiced when TV’s Most Batshit-Crazy Show Scandal, the ABC thriller-soap-drama starring Kerry Washington as crisis manager Olivia Pope, returned Thursday. Catholics around the globe rejoiced at the return of, well, a pope when Pope Francis was inaugurated Tuesday. With so many reasons to celebrate the Popes, here’s a handy guide to which is which—and the surprising similarities between the two.


(Photo Credit: ABC, via Getty/AP)

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Pope Francis Puts a Ring on It

The new pontiff made it official in Vatican City, putting on a big hat and a fisherman’s ring. See the best moments from the inauguration that happened while you were sleeping.

Prior to the ceremony, Pope Francis lived up to his reputation for humility, stopping his procession to bless a disabled man in the crowd.

During his homily, Pope Francis stressed the importance of service. “God does not want a house built by man,” he said, “but faithfulness to His word, to His plan.” 

Party at the Vatican

Not Your Average Pope

It’s official! As 200,000 cheered on, Pope Francis was inaugurated in a glitzy ceremony this morning. Barbie Latza Nadeau reports from Vatican City. Plus, see photos of the event.

After weeks of inclement weather, the sun parted the clouds over St. Peter’s Square in Rome early Tuesday morning, just in time for Pope Francis of Argentina to take center stage at a party fit for a king. The Vatican was in full pomp and circumstance mode with the Sistine Chapel Choir and the Institute of Sacred Music alternating hymns pumped out over loudspeakers. Cardinals sat on red velvet chairs, dressed in either golden chasubles or purple robes. More than 500 priests in white surplice smocks accompanied by attendants holding yellow and white umbrellas fanned out into the square to give communion to as many of the 200,000 pilgrims who came for the occasion. Even the weather played a role, with partly cloudy skies casting bright beams of sunlight at opportune moments throughout the two-hour celebration, as if divine intervention caused the sun to shine a spotlight on the new pope. But for all the fanfare, there was one overriding message: Francis is not your average pope.

Pope Francis

Pope Francis waves as he arrives in St. Peter's Square for his inauguration Mass at the Vatican, on March 19, 2013. (Michael Sohn/AP)

Already dubbed “the people’s pope,” Francis has set a surprising precedent in his papacy for being accessible, simple, and open. Even before his papal crowning on Tuesday, he had twice-defied his security detail’s better judgment by going on impromptu walkabouts at Roman churches to greet the people. The day after his election, he made his motorcade stop by the modest priests’ house where he had been staying before the conclave to pick up his bags and pay his bill. And on Tuesday, it was easy to see that the faithful, hungry for an all-access pope, love what they see so far. And as he glided through the crowds in an open jeep—stopping once to get out and kiss the head of a disabled man—he seemed much more like a rock star than the conservative leader of the world’s billion-strong Roman Catholic Church.

In just a few appearances since he was elected on March 13, he may have managed to put a far friendlier face forward than his predecessor Benedict XVI, who resigned from the papacy on February 28. But whether the hope and happiness of the moment will last is anyone’s guess. Francis may be friendly, but he’s not likely to be liberal. No one expects him to start handing out condoms in St. Peter’s Square or suddenly ordain women as priests. But there is palpable hope that he will do something to restore faith in his dying church, where membership has been on a steady decline for the last decade. “My faith is renewed already,” said 67-year-old Maria Grazia Ceccarelli, who had come to St. Peter’s Square at 6 a.m. to make sure she got a good seat for the inauguration. “I had lost my faith in recent years because of the troubles of the church, but Francis has already called me back. He is giving me hope.”

Dirty War

The Pope’s Penance

Long before the media played gotcha, Francis seems to have wrestled with not having taken a more forthright stand against the undeniable evil of Argentina’s dirty war, says Michael Daly.

Maybe Pope Francis is not just another hypocritical public figure with a shameful past.


Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, celebrates a Mass in honor of Pope John Paul II at the Buenos Aires Cathedral in Buenos Aires, Argentina on April 4, 2005. (Natacha Pisarenko/AP, file)

Maybe his dedication to the poor is at least in part a perpetual penance for a lapse of courage during Argentina’s dirty war decades ago.

Maybe he already caught himself long before the media played gotcha.


There Were No Angels in Argentina

As questions are raised about Pope Francis and the “dirty war,” it’s worth noting that few survived the conflict with perfect morality intact, says Mark Szuchman.

The election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio, a 76-year-old Jesuit, as Pope Francis has generated mostly positive reactions throughout much of the Catholic world. For most Argentines, the event represents another source of national pride. Many of them will point to Francis as yet further evidence that Argentina is a respected member of the community of nations, an assertion tirelessly expressed by Argentines—except during frequent periods of political debacle or economic downturn, when withering self-criticism replaces the occasional lapses into nationalistic hubris.

Pope Francis Arriving to Speak to the Media

Pope Francis arrives for a private audience with members of the media on March 16, 2013, at the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican. (Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty)

But it is the pall of Argentina’s so-called dirty war, conducted against its own citizens by the military juntas that serially ruled the country between 1976 and 1983, that critics say threatens to mark the papacy of Francis.

Horacio Verbitsky, a noted investigative journalist based in Buenos Aires whose past was also characterized by his involvement in the conflict—with violent leftist guerillas—has written of Bergoglio’s alleged responsibility for the temporary disappearance and torture of two fellow Jesuits. According to his accusers, Bergoglio is suspected of removing his protective mantle, thereby exposing the lives of Francisco Jalics and Orlando Yorio to the government’s repressive machinery. Proof has been difficult to find.


The Two Faces of Pope Francis

The new pontiff’s past reputation is hard to square with his affable presence today. His actions in the weeks to come will tell us who he really is, writes Christopher Dickey.

It was probably inevitable that Pope Francis, whose humor and informality charmed hundreds of members of the international press corps at a gathering on Saturday, would lean down and pet the big golden Labrador seeing-eye dog that accompanied a blind journalist. Of course the crowd applauded. The gesture was perfectly natural and unforced; the kind of thing parishioners would expect from a fatherly priest, and that many of the world’s Catholics hope for from the man they now call Holy Father.

Poster of Pope Francis

Posters of newly elected Pope Francis are seen on a wall on March 16, 2013, in Rome. (Spencer Platt/Getty)

There was no hint on the stage Saturday of the uptight young Jesuit administrator, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, accused of complacency if not complicity while a savage military regime waged what came to be called the “dirty war” to exterminate guerrillas in his native Argentina more than 30 years ago.

The contrasting images are so striking that it’s tempting to say that one of them must be false, or that, if the past was ugly, it really is just ancient history now. As one young woman with the Vatican staff said indignantly when asked about the Argentine allegations, “If this press corps had been around when Saint Peter became pope, you would be writing headlines about how he denied Christ three times” (as the Gospel tells us he did). “What is important,” she said, “is what the Holy Father does now.”

Pope Francis

Thank God He’s Jesuit!

The most brilliant and controversial order of the Catholic Church has, at long last, one of its own elected pope. Historian Jonathan Wright on the history of the Jesuits and how their ideas may influence him—and save the church.

If “any congregation of men could merit eternal perdition on earth and in hell,” it is the “Company of Loyola.” So wrote John Adams to Thomas Jefferson in 1816. By this date, the Jesuits (“the Company of Loyola”) had grown accustomed to such venomous denunciations. Since their official founding in 1540 they had been falsely accused of killing an impressive number of monarchs, of seducing wealthy widows in every corner of the globe, and, as one disgruntled Scottish Protestant put it in 1615, of working ferociously hard  “to make the pope the lord of all the earth.” One imagines that the latest pope, a Jesuit, is familiar with the centuries of calumny that have been heaped upon his forebears. If he’s a reasonable man—and, in most regards, he seems to be—he’ll dismiss the ludicrous allegations but readily admit that the Jesuits have never been perfect. He’ll also take some pride in the astonishing history of the Society of Jesus: arguably the most prodigious religious order every produced by the Roman Catholic Church.

Jesuit Priests

Dutch discoverer of the Timmers Comet and Jesuit priest Brother Matthew Timmers in the Vatican Observatory, 1946; Reverend Father Aime Duval, Jesuit Guitarist And Singer, at his home, 1957. (Chris Ware/Keystone Features/Getty; Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone/Getty)

Jesuits have served as astronomers to Chinese emperors, they have been hacienda owners in Mexico and wine-growers in Australia, and they have provided educations to men as various as Fidel Castro, Voltaire, and Alfred Hitchcock. The distorted image of the wily Jesuit is unlikely to disappear. Many will still agree with an 1848 caricature of Jesuit behavior: to “tread softly, to whisper in the ear, to work mole-like underground; to glide to and fro, and in and out, like the serpent through the windings of society.” Others will prefer to focus on Jesuit achievement: the fact that there are 35 craters on the moon’s surface named in honor of Jesuit scientists, or that some Jesuits have led the charge for social justice in the developing world.

The only absolutely secure conclusion is that lazy stereotypes are best avoided and that there have always been awful Jesuits and wonderful Jesuits. Pope Francis seems to be one of the better ones. The urgent question is how his Jesuit identity will influence his stint at the Vatican. We can certainly expect a truly global papacy, not just because of Francis’s birthplace but also because taking the Christian message to far-flung foreign climes has always been a Jesuit obsession. The papal name chosen by Bergoglio immediately brings Francis Xavier, the Jesuits’ first great missionary to mind. Back in the 16th century, when Xavier was plying his evangelical trade, it was all about impressing Japanese rulers with gifts of spectacles, mirrors, and three-muzzle muskets. These days, it is about bringing unity to a muddled and divided church, but the imperative remains the same: to define a faith and find some balance between honoring the deposit of tradition and adapting to shifting circumstances.


The Dirty War for Dummies

There’s a black cloud over Pope Francis: questions over his involvement in Argentina’s ‘dirty war.’ What happened? Rob Verger on one of the ugliest periods of South American history.

Jorge Mario Bergoglio has been pope for less than a week, but his past is already starting to give him trouble. Pope Francis, as he is now known, has been caught up in allegations that he was too passive in the face of atrocities committed during the so-called ‘dirty war’ in his native Argentina in the 1970s, when he served as provincial superior for the Society of Jesus. There are even accusations that he betrayed two Jesuit priests to the government’s security forces.  (One cardinal has described these accusations as “a smear and a lie.” The Vatican has also defended the pontiff, calling the charges a fantasy of “the anticlerical left.” 

Bergoglio, Dirty War?

Men detained by police during largest anti-government demonstration since the 1976 military takeover; Buenos Aires, 1982. Nearly a decade earlier, Priest Pedro Arupe and priest Jorge Mario Bergoglio, right, give a Mass at the church in the El Salvador school in Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1973, prior to the peak of the Dirty War. (Eduardo DiBaia/AP, El Salvador School/AP)

But those who are weak on South American history may need to take a step back at this point. What’s the dirty war, anyway? Here’s a quick explainer. 

1. It lasted almost 10 years.

Pope Francis

Bergoglio’s Dirty War Dealings

There’s evidence that the new pope knew of the Argentine dictatorship’s role in disappearing citizens and children, says Horacio Verbitsky.

Graciela Yorio—sister of theologian and Third World priest Orlando Yorio, who accused Father Jorge Bergoglio (now Pope Francis) of being responsible for his abduction by military forces during Argentina’s Dirty War and the torture he endured for five months in 1976—wrote me. “I can’t believe it. I’m so anguished and enraged I don’t know what to do. He got what he wanted. I’m seeing Orlando in the dining room, a few years ago, saying ‘He wants to be pope.’ He’s the man to cover up the rot. He’s the expert at cover-ups … My brother Fito called me, sobbing.”

Pope Francis I Waves

Peter Macdiarmid/Getty

Orlando Yorio died in 2000, long before Bergoglio told an Argentine court in November 2010 that he had only learned of the existence of the chicos apropiados (children of the disappeared given up for adoption) after the military dictatorship ended. Another Argentine court, in reviewing the systematic plan for appropriating the children of the disappeared, received documents indicating that in 1979 Bergoglio was well aware of the practice and intervened in at least one case. After meeting with family members of Elena de la Cuadra, abducted in 1977 while in her fifth month of pregnancy, Bergoglio gave them a letter for the Bishop of La Plata asking him to intercede with the military government.  That’s how her family learned that Elena had given birth to a baby girl, who was given away and would never be returned.

In a written declaration to the courts concerning the abduction of Yorio and another Jesuit, Francisco Jalics, Bergoglio said there were no documents in the episcopal archive relating to the disappeared. But the priest who succeeded him, José Arancedo, sent Judge Martina Forns a copy of the record of a meeting between military dictator Jorge Videla and Bishops Raúl Primatesta, Juan Aramburu, and Vicente Zazpe in which they speak with extraordinary frankness about whether or not to say that the disappeared have been executed—because Videla wants to protect the murderers.

Questions persist about how Pope Francis behaved during the violence of Argentina’s Dirty War. Christopher Dickey digs into the evidence.

The new pope won over the crowd in St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday night with his kindly voice and humble words. But whispers about his past hover like a threatening storm over his papacy. When Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, was the head of the Jesuit order in Argentina, did he do too little to protect his priests from a savage military dictatorship? Or, worse, did he denounce some of them as guerrilla sympathizers, virtually sentencing them to death?

Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio

Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio takes part in a holy mass for the eternal rest of Pope John Paul II on April 4, 2005, at Buenos Aires's cathedral. (Ali Burafi/AFP/Getty)

The allegations are not new, but they are persistent.

“It was the time of the civil war between the extreme right-wing and left-wing groups in Argentine society,” wrote Franz Jalics, an Argentine priest, looking back decades later. It was 1976, and after years of growing violence by various guerrilla groups, a military junta had seized power in Buenos Aires. The secretive campaign waged by the generals, known as the “dirty war,” was ferocious. Thousands of people were “disappeared” at the hands of a special Navy unit that took some prisoners to concentration camps and threw others into the sea from helicopters.


The Jesuit Whisperer Speaks

The author of several acclaimed books on the order, Father James Martin is the Jesuit world’s poster boy. With the highest position in the Catholic Church now held by a Jesuit, he gives The Daily Beast’s Abby Haglage some expert advice on understanding our Papa.

“Praise the Lord!!” was the text I received from my Jesuit-educated dad on the day Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Cardinal of Buenos Aires, was elected as the first Jesuit pope in history. My dad’s genuine bliss, echoed by Jesuits around the world, was surpassed two days later when I called to let him know I’d be talking with author, priest, and culture editor of America magazine, Father James Martin. “How COOL.” he exclaimed.  My Ohio-born, Catholic-raised father’s reaction says it all: Father Martin is perhaps the closest thing to a celebrity the Jesuit order has ever known. He is, after all, the official chaplain of the Colbert Nation. Martin spoke to me about Francis, the future of the Catholic Church, and the order’s hometown pride.


Father James Martin on the rooftop of America Magazine's headquarters in New York City. (Tatyana Borodina)

What was your initial reaction to the news that a Jesuit had been selected as the new Pope?

I was stunned into speechlessness, which isn’t typical for the Jesuits. I couldn’t wait to get home to my community and celebrate with them.

We're On It

Already? Book On New Pope Coming

Already? Book On New Pope Coming Peter Macdiarmid/Getty

To be published at the end of April.

Yup, book publishers waste no time. The first book on Pope Francis I will be published April 30, Image Books announced Wednesday, the same day Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected the new pontiff. The book is not yet titled, but it will be written by Robert Moynihan, founder and editor of Inside the Vatican, a monthly Catholic magazine based in Rome. Moynihan's previous 2006 book is Let God’s Light Shine Forth: The Spiritual Vision of Pope Benedict XVI.

Read it at Publishers Weekly

Habemus Papam

Conclave Conspiracies

Backstabbing! Secret deals! Holy grudges! Rumors are flying about how Pope Francis really got elected. Barbie Latza Nadeau reports from Rome on who's feeling snubbed.

Even before the white smoke had settled in St. Peter’s square after the election of Pope Francis on Wednesday night, rumors were already swirling around Rome about what really happened inside the Sistine Chapel during the super-secret conclave.  As the mainstream press wrote profiles of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio and his journey to the papacy, Vatican experts were whispering about backstabbing and secret deals that went down under Michelangelo’s frescoed ceiling. 

Cardinals on the Night Pope Francis was Elected

Cardinals stand on a balcony while Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio (not pictured), elected Pope Francis I appears at the window of St Peter's Basilica's balcony, near a statue of St Peter, after being elected the 266th pope of the Roman Catholic Church on March 13, 2013 at the Vatican. (Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty)

On Thursday morning, Italians woke to screaming headlines about betrayals and dietrologia, a popular Italian phrase for conspiracy theories about what’s really going on behind the scenes.  The most popular theory as to why Bergoglio was elected was put forward by La Stampa’s esteemed Vaticanista Giacomo Galeazzi, who wrote that Italian frontrunner Angelo Scola was “betrayed by his countrymen on the first vote.” According to Galeazzi, the top Italian cardinals in the Roman Curia held “grudges” against Scola and undermined his chances of winning in the first round.  Namely, according to Galeazzi, Vatican secretary of State Tarciso Bertone and the Dean of the College of Cardinals, Angelo Sodano, were “ridiculously hostile” towards Scola, who they saw as a threat to their power.  Citing an unnamed source, Galeazzi says Scola was banned because of “ancient jealousies and rivalries.”

The Vaticanista from Corriere Della Sera, Massimo Franco, instead theorized that Bergoglio’s win was a compromise to give a nod to the strength of the Latin American faithful and show that the Vatican was willing to at least try out someone from another part of the world. At the same time, the election of Bergoglio, whose father was an Italian immigrant to Argentia, pacified those who wanted either a European or Italian pope. Another front-runner, Odilo Scherer from Brazil, reportedly did not do well at all in balloting. As the Brazilian-born son of German immigrants, Franco says he was too much of a carbon copy of Benedict. And two German popes in a row would surely not sit well with Italians, whose anti-German sentiment has been underscored by the recent European financial crisis in which Italy is seen as the weak underdog to Germany’s strong economy. At the age of 76, the Francis papacy won’t last decades, so giving the job to a Latin American could be considered a “trial run” to see how it works.  Franco also wrote that his sources hinted that a deal was made in which Scola would instead be given the secretariat of state portfolio, effectively giving him the task of doing the dirty work of reforming the Roman curia without the reward of a pontificate.


Meet Your New Papa

He’s from Argentina, he’s a Jesuit, and he’s already gotten guff for opposing same-sex marriage. Here's what we know about the new Pope Francis.

Dear God, there’s a new pope in town: Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the former archbishop of Buenos Aires, who will now be known as Pope Francis.

So, what do we know about this guy?

Bergoglio, who will be the first Jesuit, first Latin American, and first Francis to be pontiff, was considered a longshot for the job after Pope Benedict XVI abdicated last month; his name was rarely seen in media speculation, which focused on better-known candidates like Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana or Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York. 

Pope Francis I addresses the world for the first time.


Cover It Live

Papal Inauguration: Live Updates From Rome!

Papal Inauguration: Live Updates From Rome!

Follow our reporters Barbie Latza Nadeau and Christopher Dickey in Rome as Pope Francis takes over. See tweets, photos, and videos.

viva la papa

All About the Pope

Not Your Average Pope

Not Your Average Pope

As 200,000 cheered on, Pope Francis was inaugurated in a glitzy Vatican City ceremony this morning.


The Dirty War for Dummies

Dirty War

The Pope’s Penance

Pope Gives God Three Weeks' Notice

Shocking the Vatican and Catholics around the world Monday, Pope Benedict XVI announced that he would resign the papacy at the end of February, becoming the first Pope to do so since 1415. Take a look back at his 2005 election.

Scandal Sheet

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The Swiss Guards' Gay Mafia

The Swiss Guards' Gay Mafia

Accusations are swirling about a secret gay cabal inside the Vatican's pope-protecting forces and how much it knew about the departure of Pope Benedict.


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