This week last year...
Habemus Papam! A Sign of Hope and Renewal
On March 13, 2013, we welcomed the election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, then the archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, as the 266th pope. He chose the name Francis, after St. Francis of Assisi. The resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, followed by the short period of transition before and during the papal conclave, was a time for the Church—and all of us who make up the body of Christ—to examine closely our role, mission, and place in the modern world. And the election of Pope Francis has been a sign of renewal and hope for the faithful the world over. In these first weeks of his papacy, Francis has again and again shown us the way of simplicity, humility, compassion, cooperation, and mercy—the hallmarks of the life of a disciple and a servant of God. Let us continue to pray for God’s blessing for Pope Francis in his new role and for the future of the Church. And as we move through Holy Week into the Easter season, the season of renewal, let us reawaken ourselves to our baptismal promises and our commitment to answering the call to discipleship. Our gifts are as varied as we are. How will you use your gifts? What example will you set?
A Brief Introduction
- A series of firsts—he is the first pope from Argentina, the Americas, and the Southern Hemisphere. He is the first Francis, named for Francis of Assisi. And he is the first Jesuit pontiff.
- Francis is the first non-European pope since Gregory III, who was born in modern-day Syria, was elected in 731.
- Born in Buenos Aires, he is the 76-year-old son of Italian immigrants from a modest background. He has four brothers and sisters. He entered the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in 1958 and was ordained a priest in 1969. He was made a cardinal in 2001.
- The new pope is known for his humble lifestyle. As archbishop, he cooked his own meals, lived in a modest apartment, and rode the bus instead of taking a limo. He also regularly visited the slums outside the city.
- After his election, moving photos of him washing and kissing the feet of AIDS/HIV patients during his Holy Thursday liturgy one year in Argentina dramatically illustrate his heartfelt compassion and embrace of those on the margin. As pope, he will celebrate the Holy Thursday liturgy—the opening liturgy of the Triduum—in a juvenile prison in Rome rather than St. Peter’s.
- A student as well as a teacher—he has degrees in chemistry, philosophy, and theology, and has taught all of these (and literature and psychology as well) as a Jesuit.
- In his first appearance as pope, Francis showed his humility and humanity by bowing to the people and asking for their blessing before he blessed the crowds as the new pontiff. Since then, there have been daily surprises as he eschews formality and embraces simplicity.
- He is respected as a man of great knowledge, humility, compassion, and holiness, as well as a decisive and skilled leader—pastoral and administrative skills that will be essential in his role as pope.