After a very short two-day conference, the Cardinals of the Catholic Church selected Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina to replace Pope Benedict XVI as the holy father. He has taken on the title of Pope Francis I, after Saint Francis of Assisi. Let us meet him.
Pope Francis I comes not from the Benedictine order, nor was he appointed by Pope Benedict, as many suspected the new pope would be, but instead is a Jesuit, appointed to the Cardinalship by Pope John Paul II in 2001. He is a traditionalist, but not a theological libertarian as some believed the new pope would be. This means that instead of the theological libertarian approach of political activism, Pope Francis, instead, is far more traditional, with a hands-off approach. He has come down in the past strongly against those in his flock who would force the church’s viewpoints on governments.
While he does not believe in marriage equality, he has a far gentler line than his predecessor on the viewpoints of homosexuality, AIDS, and the issues of social justice and the poor. He has spoken out in opposition to the more hardline members of the Catholic Church who, in the past, appeared to care more for the church’s position than its duty to help those in poverty. While Benedict arrived with all the pomp and circumstance, Pope Francis appeared on the balcony with a minimum of the vestments of office, much as his predecessor Pope John Paul did in 1978.
Pope Francis was not a front-runner going in to the conference, with many believing that Angelo Scola, an Italian Cardinal, would be chosen. The selection of the 76-year-old Argentine is a clear sign that change has come to the Catholic Church, change it desperately needs as it is dragged into the 21st century.
We wish Pope Francis I all the blessings and well wishes as deserved. He is hopefully a step forward for a beleaguered Catholic Church in need of change, and for Christians everywhere.
Nathaniel Downes is the son of a former state representative of New Hampshire, now living in Seattle Washington.
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