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.
But Bergoglio did earn a dozen votes during the last papal election in 2005, and was said to be the runner-up, so this isn’t a total shock. (Days before the 2005 conclave, a human rights lawyer in Argentina filed a suit against him, claiming that he was complicit in the 1976 kidnapping of two Jesuit priests. Bergoglio denied the claim.)Bergoglio is 76 years old—nine years younger than Benedict at the time of his abdication. He was elected on the fifth ballot and won at least 77 votes on Wednesday, the second day of the secret conclave in Vatican City.
Why is he qualified for the job?
Since the day he was ordained for the Jesuits in 1969 (he originally planned to be a Chemist), Bergoglio has spent his entire career overseeing churches and priests in Latin America, where more Catholics reside than any other continent. He was named archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1998 and is well-known for modernizing an Argentine church that had previously been considered one of the most conservative in Latin America. The pontiff is fluent in Spanish, German and—of course—Italian.
And yes, the Vatican says, he's perfectly able to do his job with one lung. He opposes gay marriage and has an orthodox attitude when it comes to sexual morality.
Catholics hoping for a pope with a new attitude towards homosexuality may be disappointed with Bergoglio. He opposed legislation introduced in 2010 by the Argentine government to allow same-sex marriage, writing in a letter to the monasteries of Buenos Aires: "Let's not be naive, we're not talking about a simple political battle; it is a destructive pretension against the plan of God. We are not talking about a mere bill, but rather a machination of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God."Not surprisingly, he's also anti-abortion.But Bergoglio has a more liberal view on contraception, which he has said may be used to prevent the spread of disease. He has also demonstrated compassion for AIDS victims, washing and kissing the feet of 12 patients in a hospice in 2001.He has a soft, empathetic side and is apparently agenuinely modest guy.
Sure, he’s conservative on many issues, but Bergoglio appeals to liberals in other ways. Last September, he blasted a group of priests who had refused to baptize children born out of wedlock, calling the move a form of “rigorous and hypocritical neo-clericalism.”
He is also known to live simply—before calling Vatican City his home, he lived in an apartment in Buenos Aires instead of the archbishop’s palace. He cooked his own meals, and instead of taking a private car to work, he took the public bus.
Now he'll be trading the bus for the popemobile.