His Holiness Pope Francis
(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
His Holiness Pope Francis
(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
By PAUL LIKOUDIS
In a conclave that was much shorter than many Vatican watchers anticipated, the cardinals of the Catholic Church on March 13 elected an Argentinian Jesuit, Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio, to succeed Pope Benedict XVI, after two days in conclave.
Francis is the first Jesuit to become a Pope, and the first Pope born outside of Europe in more than a millennium. He is also the first Pope since Vatican II not to have been involved in the council, being ordained a priest four years after its close. “By electing as Pope at the fourth scrutiny the Archbishop of Buenos Aires Jorge Mario Bergoglio,”wrote Vaticanologist Sandro Magister forLa Chiesa, “the conclave has made a move as surprising as it is brilliant. “Surprising for those — almost everyone — who had not noticed, during the preceding days, the effective appearance of his name in the conversations among the cardinals. His relatively advanced age, 76 years and three months, led him to be classified more among the great electors than among the possible elect. . . .
“In the conclave of 2005 the opposite had happened for him. Bergoglio was one of the most decisive supporters of the appointment of Joseph Ratzinger as Pope. And instead he found himself voted for, against his own will, precisely by those who wanted to block the appointment of Benedict XVI.”
One of five children born to an Italian immigrant and his wife in Buenos Aires, the new Pope studied chemistry before realizing his vocation to the priesthood. He entered the Society of Jesus on March 11, 1958, obtained a licentiate in philosophy from the Colegio Maximo San José in San Miguel, and then taught literature and psychology at the Colegio de la Immaculada in Santa Fe, and the Colegio del Salvador in Buenos Aires. He was ordained to the priesthood on December 13, 1969,by Archbishop Ramon José Castellano, and pronounced his perpetual vows on April 22, 1973.
After further studies, he became a professor of theology, and in recognition of his leadership skills, the Society of Jesus promoted Bergoglio to serve as provincial for Argentina from 1973 to 1979. He was transferred in 1980 to become the rector of the seminary in San Miguel where he had studied, serving there until 1986, devoting much of his time to preaching and hearing Confessions. In March of 1986 he went to Germany to finish his doctoral thesis.
On May 20, 1992 John Paul II appointed him titular bishop of Auca and auxiliary bishop of Buenos Aires. On June 3, 1997 the Pope appointed him coadjutor archbishop of Buenos Aires and he became the archbishop on February 28, 1998. Pope John Paul II concurrently named him ordinary for Eastern Catholics in Argentina, who lacked their own prelate.
John Paul summoned the newly named archbishop to the consistory of February 21, 2001 in Vatican City and elevated Bergoglio with the papal honors of a cardinal, of the title of S. Roberto Bellarmino.
The new Pope has served in several congregations of the Roman Curia, including the Congregation for the Clergy; the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments; the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. Bergoglio also became a member of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America and the Pontifical Council for the Family.
As cardinal, Bergoglio became known for personal humility, doctrinal conservatism, and a commitment to social justice. His simple lifestyle has contributed to his reputation for humility.
He has been outspoken in his defense of the right to life, and has powerfully affirmed Church’steaching on homosexuality. Although he has emphasized the importance of respecting individuals who are homosexual, he denounced government legislation allowing same- sex marriage, branding it “ a destructive pretension against the plan of God.
“We are not talking about a mere bill,” he wrote to the nuns in four Carmelite convents urging their prayers against the legislation,“ but rather a machination of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.”
He has consistently preached a message of compassion toward the poor, while emphasizing the needfor personal conversion and repentance, as he did in his lenten message earlier this year. He then deplored the media’s senseless glorification of “ a violence that kills, that destroys families, that enlivens wars and conflicts in so many countries of the world. . . .
“ The suffering of the innocent and peaceable buffets us nonstop; the contempt for the rights of the most fragile of people and nationsis not so distant from us; the tyrannical rule of money with its demonic effects, such as drugs, corruption, trafficking in people — even children — along with misery, both material and moral, are the coin of the realm [ today]. Thedestruction of dignified work, painful emigrations, and the lack of a future also join in this [ tragic] symphony.
“ Our errors and sins as Church are not beyond this analysis. Rationalizing selfishness does not diminish it, lack of ethical values within a society metastasizes in [ our] families, in the environment of [our] neighborhoods, towns, and cities. [ This lack of ethical values]testifies to our limitations, to our weaknesses and to our incapacity to transform this innumerable list of destructive realities.
“ The trap of powerlessness makes us wonder,” he continued. “ Does it make sense to try to change all this? Can we do anything against this? Is it worthwhile to try, if the world continues its carnival merriment, disguising all [ this tragedy] for a little while? But, when the mask falls, the truth appears and, although to many it may sound anachronistic to say so, once again sin becomes apparent, sin that wounds our very flesh with all its destructive force, twisting the destinies of the world and of the history.
“ Lent is presented to us as a shout of truth and certain hope that comes us to say, ‘Yes, it is possible to not slap on makeup, and not draw plastic smiles as if nothing happened.’ Yes, it is possible that all is made new and different because God remains ‘ rich in kindness and mercy, always willing to forgive,’ and He encourages us to begin anew time and again.
“ Today, again, we are invited to undertake a Paschal road toward Life, a path that includes the cross and resignation; a path that will be uncomfortable but not fruitless. We are invited to admit that something inside us is not going well ( in society or in the Church), to change, to turn around, to be converted.. . . “ Rend your heart, that we may say with the psalmist: ‘ We have sinned.’ “ ‘ The wound of the soul is sin: Oh, poor wounded one, recognize your Doctor! Show Him the wounds of your faults. And, since from Him our most secret thoughts cannot hide themselves, make the cry of your heart felt [ to Him]. Move Him to compassion with your tears, with your insistence beg Him! Let Him hear your sighs, that your pain reaches Him so that, at the end, He can tell you: The Lord has forgiven your sins’ ( St. Gregory the Great). . . .
“ Rend your hearts the prophet says, and Paul asks us — almost on his knees — ‘ be reconciled with God.’ Changing our way of living is both a sign and fruit of a torn heart, reconciled by a love that overwhelms us.”
The new Pontiff, who will not be using his return plane ticket to Buenos Aires, concluded his lenten message to the people of Buenos Aires with this appeal: “ This year of faith we are traversing is also an opportunity God gives us to grow and to mature in an encounter with the Lord made visible in the suffering face of so many children without a future, in the trembling hands of the elders who have been forgotten, and in the trembling knees of so many families who continue to face life without finding anyone who will assist them.”
White smoke billows from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel indicating a Pope has been chosen.
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