Habent papa!*

*"They have a pope!"

This time, he is a dark horse.

Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, is now Pope Francis I.  According to an unnamed cardinal, he was the runner-up to Pope Benedict XVI at the last conclave, and in fact began the conclave in very close contention for the lead before making an emotional appeal to his fellow cardinals not to vote for him..

At a time at which Latin America is becoming an increasingly large and important segment of world Catholicism-fully 40% of the world's Catholics live there- the election of a pope from Argentina should in some ways not be a surprise  And as is often the case in such matters, the logic of electing specifically Jorge Bergoglio seems clear after the fact. So does the reasoning behind his choice of name.

The new pope is both a strong manager and a firm confessor of Christian teaching in the face of the Argentinian government's embrace of same-sex "marriage." The curia has reportedly been rocked by the discovery of widespread corruption. And the Catholic church- as well as all of Christianity- faces a crisis not dissimilar to the one St. Francis of Assisi confronted: a time in which nominal, superficial commitment to the Faith is the norm, and Christianity is declining in influence in the places where it has historically been strongest.

Like the saint whose name he has taken,  Cardinal Bergoglio had a widespread reputation for profound humility. While Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he took the bus to work! A doctrinally conservative Jesuit (apparently they do exist!)- viewed, in fact, as too conservative by some in the Order- Francis has served as regional general for the Jesuits in Argentina as well as being the archbishop of one of the largest archdioceses in the world, the new pope is very much in the same mold as the man who made him a cardinal, Pope John Paul II. A man with an impressive, disciplined, and well-trained intellect, his shy, understated but warm style seems well-suited to inspire much as did the very different style of John Paul.

Amid widespread reports that his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, resigned in order to pave the way for a reformation of a corrupt Curia, his experience with keeping Argentina's Jesuits in line and the strong administrative skills he displayed as Archbishop of Buenos Airies seem to be exactly what is needed. He has extensive experience in the Curia, having served in the Congregation of Clergy, He has extensive experience in the Curia, having served in the Congregation of Clergy, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, and the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

A pastor as well as an administrator, Pope Francis was novice master at the seminary of San Miguel in Buenos Aires, from which he had graduated, and later its rector. After getting his doctorate in Germany, he returned to Argentina to become a confessor and spiritual director in Cordoba. He was made Auxiliary Bishop of Buenos Aires in 1992, and became archbishop in 1998. Pope John Paul II named him a cardinal in  

The first Jesuit pope, as well as the first pope to be born in the Western Hemisphere, he is the third consecutive non-Italian pope- to a point, anyway.His father was born in Italy, and emigrated to Argentina- a fact which could not have hurt among the Italians in the College of Cardinals.

All Christians, regardless of denomination, should be praying for the new pope as he begins his role as one of the leaders of the struggle for renewal in one of the darkest ages the Church has ever known.


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