After five ballots and just over a day, the 115 cardinal electors have selected Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as the new successor to the Apostle Peter and head of the Catholic Church. He will assume the papal name Francis. (Update, 5:17 p.m.: The Vatican states that the name will not include the Roman numeral I.)
Pope Francis was an unexpected choice. At gambling site PaddyPower, his odds shortly before he was identified were 25-to-1, making him something of a long-shot. How unexpected was his selection? In crafting a biography of him, National Catholic Reporter suggested that he "at least merits a look."
Until today, Francis serves as cardinal-archbishop of Buenos Aires. He has served as archbishop of that diocese since 1998 and was named a cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 2001.
The new pope's home diocese.
Shortly after Pope Emeritus Ratizinger announced that he was leaving his position, journalist and pope-watcher Michael Dougherty crafted introductory profiles of each likely candidate. Dougherty suggested that a Bergoglio papacy would see social justice and humility rise as priorities in the church.
That's echoed in his choice of name. Saint Francis of Assisi from whom the name is taken told of being visited by Jesus Christ who said to the saint, "Francis, repair my Church which, as you can see, is falling into ruins."
Earlier this month, Talking Points Memo described Francis' work.
Bergoglio, 76, reportedly got the second-most votes after Joseph Ratzinger in the 2005 papal election, and he has long specialized in the kind of pastoral work that some say is an essential skill for the next pope. In a lifetime of teaching and leading priests in Latin America, which has the largest share of the world’s Catholics, Bergoglio has shown a keen political sensibility as well as the kind of self-effacing humility that fellow cardinals value highly, says his official biographer, Sergio Rubin.
Bergoglio would likely encourage the church’s 400,000 priests to hit the streets to capture more souls, Rubin said in an Associated Press interview. He is also most comfortable taking a low profile, and his personal style is the antithesis of Vatican splendor. “It’s a very curious thing: When bishops meet, he always wants to sit in the back rows. This sense of humility is very well seen in Rome,” Rubin said.
Francis rejected one notable trapping of his new position, choosing to take the public bus instead of a chauffeured car.
National Catholic Reporter describes his upbringing.
Born in Buenos Aires in 1936, Bergoglio's father was an Italian immigrant and railway worker from the region around Turin, and he has four brothers and sisters. His original plan was to be a chemist, but in 1958 he instead entered the Society of Jesus and began studies for the priesthood. He spent much of his early career teaching literature, psychology and philosophy, and early on he was seen as a rising star. From 1973 to 1979 he served as the Jesuit provincial in Argentina, then in 1980 became the rector of the seminary from which he had graduated.
These were the years of the military junta in Argentina, when many priests, including leading Jesuits, were gravitating towards the progressive liberation theology movement. As the Jesuit provincial, Bergoglio insisted on a more traditional reading of Ignatian spirituality, mandating that Jesuits continue to staff parishes and act as chaplains rather than moving into "base communities" and political activism.
As you might expect, his views on broader subjects are fairly orthodox, earning, for example, a rebuke from Argentina's prime minister after suggesting that gay adoption discriminate against children.
If you were wondering, Francis' election, occurring on the second day and fifth ballot wasn't abnormally fast. The past twelve conclaves have averaged three days in length, requiring six-and-a-half ballots.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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