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Argentine Cardinal Bergoglio elected Pope Francis

March 13, 2013

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina has been elected Pope.

The new Pontiff, who chose the name Pope Francis, is the first Latin American ever to become Roman Pontiff, and the first Jesuit.

The Argentine cardinal was elected on the 5th ballot of the conclave, and white smoke appeared from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel just after 2 pm on Wednesday, March 13. More than an hour lapsed before Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the senior cardinal-deacon, appeared on the central balcony of St. Peter’s basilica to make the traditional announcement: “Habemus papam!”

After another long pause the new Pope appeared, acknowledging the loud applause from more than 200,000 people packed into St. Peter’s Square. In his first remarks he led the crowd in prayers for Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI, then asked for prayers for himself before giving his Urbi et Orbi blessing.

“And now let us begin this journey, the bishop and people, this journey of the Church of Rome which presides in charity over all the churches, a journey of brotherhood in love, of mutual trust,” the new Pope said just before delivering his blessing. “Let us always pray for one another.”

Cardinal Tauran announced, and the new Pope confirmed, that everyone who received the Pope’s fist apostolic blessing—either in person or by a radio, television, or internet broadcast—would receive a plenary indulgence, subject to the usual conditions.

At 76, Pope Francis is old enough so that he had already submitted his resignation as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, as required by canon law. Pope Benedict had not chosen to accept that resignation. But the Argentine prelate’s age was the main reason why he was not prominently listed among the leading papabili going into the conclave.

According to several accounts, Cardinal Bergoglio had won as many as 40 votes in the conclave of 2005, emerging as the leading alternative to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger before the latter was elected as Pope Benedict XVI. The Argentine prelate himself refused to comment on reports about the 2005 votes, saying that he was "confused and a bit hurt" by the knowledge that someone had violated the secrecy of the conclave.

Although some observers at that time saw Cardinal Bergoglio as a “liberal” alternative to the “conservative” Cardinal Ratzinger, the Argentine prelate does not fit a liberal mold. He has been firm in his defense of Church teachings on controversial issues such as abortion and homosexuality, drawing the ire of political radicals in Argentina. He has distanced himself from fellow Jesuits who promoted a leftist political agenda, and shown strong sympathy for the Communion and Liberation movement in Argentina.

Nevertheless the new Pontiff has shown an ability to draw support from different corners of the Catholic world. He is known for his personal humility, which is manifested in his decision to ride buses, live in a spare apartment, and make his own meals. He has a deep commitment to helping the poor, and a passion for evangelization.

By taking the name Francis the new Pope sent a dramatic message, appealing to the millions of people devoted to one of the Catholic world’s most popular saints. That the first Jesuit Pontiff would advance Franciscan spirituality is almost as striking as the reality that a man from Argentina has been named Bishop of Rome.

Born in Buenos Aires on December 17, 1936, Jorge Mario Bergoglio entered the Society of Jesus in 1958 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1969. He became an auxiliary bishop in Buenos Aires in 1992, and coadjutor in 1998, eventually being installed as archbishop in 1999. He was raised to the College of Cardinals by Pope John Paul II in 2001.

While he has served his entire priestly ministry in Argentina, the new Pope is well acquainted with the Vatican. At the time of his election to the papacy he was a member of the Congregations for Divine Worship, the Clergy, and Religious; the Pontifical Council for the Family, and the Pontifical Commission for Latin America. He served as relator general for the Synod of Bishops in October 2001, after the prelate originally appointed to that post, Cardinal Edward Egan of New York, rushed home in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

In his first words to the public, speaking from the balcony of St. Peter’s basilica, Pope Francis—after finally quieting the enthusiastic crowd—remarked that the conclave had the duty of appointing a new Bishop of Rome. “It seems that my brother cardinals have gone almost to the ends of the earth to get him,” he joked, “but here we are.”

Later, after giving his Urbi et Orbi blessing, the Pope spoke simply to the crowd. “We will see one another soon,” he said. “Tomorrow I want to go to pray to the Madonna, that she may protect Rome. Good night and sleep well.”


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Show 8 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: AgnesDay - Mar. 14, 2013 12:26 PM ET USA

    I don't think that our new Holy Father's choice of name is one or another. I think the name Francis (Francesco) is a prism that refracts the love of God richly over the history of the Church. In the same manner, the name Benedict has a similar effect. I was thrilled at the last choice of Holy Father; I am excited over this one.

  • Posted by: R. Spanier (Catholic Canadian) - Mar. 14, 2013 2:10 AM ET USA

    May we call our Holy Father by the name he selected: Francesco?

  • Posted by: - Mar. 13, 2013 6:18 PM ET USA

    Isn't it a bit premature to presume that a Jesuit chose the name Francis in honor of the povorello? Would it not make more sense to think that the Francis he is honoring is the great missionary...Francis Xavier? That name would fit in nicely with the new evangelization and would be a continuation of Benedict's plan.

  • Posted by: jacquebquique5708 - Mar. 13, 2013 5:55 PM ET USA

    "Good night and sleep well" says a lot about the compassion of the man now known as Francis I.

  • Posted by: John J Plick - Mar. 13, 2013 5:49 PM ET USA

    As a Franciscan what can I say except that God might make him a mighty channel of His peace. JP Secular Franciscan

  • Posted by: skladach - Mar. 13, 2013 5:39 PM ET USA

    Surely the prayers of St. Francis of Assisi will help the newly elected pope to "rebuild Christ's Church". But it is likely that the Holy Father also had two confreres in mind: the missionary St. Francis Xavier and the 16th-century Father General of the Society of Jesus, St. Francis Borgia.

  • Posted by: jsanderson7941 - Mar. 13, 2013 5:35 PM ET USA

    "That the first Jesuit Pontiff would advance Franciscan spirituality is almost as striking as the reality that a man from Argentina has been named Bishop of Rome." I am not sure why the name Francis for a Jesuit Pontiff is striking -- he chose the name from St. Francis Xavier, one of the co-founders of the Jesuits.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 13, 2013 4:50 PM ET USA

    Cardinal Bergoglio is the answer, but even more important is the question - the question of what the Cardinals thought was the most important challenge facing the Church. I would suggest that part of the answer is the need for radical personal reform among the clergy. It is also interesting to speculate that the precedent of resignation has made the selection of an older Pope more palatable to the Cardinal-electors.