Finally, after weeks of anticipation, there is a new Bishop of Rome. On Wednesday, March 13, 2013, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina became Pope Francis I. While I am not Roman Catholic, I do have a great interest in this due to my love of Church History and of the various traditions that can be found within the Church’s history. My fascination with the papacy and Roman Catholicism began back in 2005 when I was just starting to come back to the faith. I remember how Pope John Paul II was ailing and how I just felt so compelled to pray for him. John Paul II (I call him JP II) eventually died, and I was mesmerized while watching his funeral as they chanted the Litany of the Saints in Latin. I started following the whole process of choosing a new pope, watching the news and doing research on just how one becomes pope. It was all very interesting. It also helped me clear up some misunderstandings about Catholicism that I had (like believing that Catholics worship St. Mary etc). I remember thinking about Pope Benedict XVI “Well he’s old, so he probably won’t last that long…” So you can imagine the surprise I had when eight years later he resigned! I once again watched the process and waited for a new pope to be chosen. Here are some brief thoughts I have about the whole thing.
1. I had a feeling that the papacy would go back to the Italians.
I knew that John Paul II had been the first non-Italian pope since 1523, and that Benedict XVI was German. There were currently more Italian Cardinals in the College of Cardinals than either other group, so I knew that the Italians would likely try to get one of their own elected. I thought my prediction was wrong at first, because Francis I was born in Argentina. But after doing a little research, I discovered that both of his parents were Italian immigrants who moved to Argentina. So the new pope is technically Italian! Score one for me.
2. I had a feeling that the new pope would choose the name Francis.
The reason for this was because no one had ever chosen that name before, and that the Church needed someone like St. Francis of Assisi to help it during these troubled times. Plus, one of the main contenders, Cardinal Sean O’Mailey, from Boston was a Franciscan and it seemed like it would be fitting if he got it. Well the new pope is a Jesuit instead of a Franciscan, but he still choose the name Francis! Score another one for me.
3. This new pope is very interesting from a historical perspective.
He is the first pope from outside of Europe since Gregory III in the 8th century (who came from Syria). He is the first Jesuit pope. He is the first pope from the Americas, as well as the first from the Southern Hemisphere. He is the first pope to take the name Francis. He appears to be a very humble man, preferring to cook his own meals, ride public transportation, and living in a small house instead of a grand mansion. He is also educated and is fluent in several languages: Spanish, Latin, Italian, German, French, and English. He seems to possess a great love for the poor, just as St. Francis did. He seems to be fairly conservative on issues such as abortion and gay marriage.
4. Closing thoughts.
I do not know how Francis will compare to Benedict XVI in terms of being a theologian, but perhaps the Church needs someone more than a theologian at this time? My hope and prayer is that Francis will listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit (the true Vicar of Christ) and lead his people closer to Christ. I hope that he will clean house and put an end to the corruption and sexual abuses that are found in the Church. I hope that he will be open to allowing priests in the Latin Rite the option of being married, and allowing women to have a greater role in the Church. I’m not so sure the last two items will happen, but one can always hope. So I’ll just end this post by saying “God bless Francis, and help him to be a good Bishop. Amen.”