Catholicism Heralds In The Era Of Jorge Bergoglio

popeJorge Mario Bergoglio was yesterday (March 13th) elected to be the 266th Pope, as white smoke emerged on the second day of the Papal conclave. He took the name Francis, after Francis of Assisi, and breaks two traditions; he is the first Jesuit Pope, and the first Pope from the Americas.

Bergoglio is an Argentinian, born in Buenos Aires in 1936; this puts him at 76 years of age, which could be considered a disappointment to those hoping for a younger Pope to lead the Catholic Church. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1969, and became an Auxiliary Bishop in 1992. He was believed to have been a strong contender for the Papacy during the last conclave, that saw John Paul II elected.

Pope Francis is seen as a humble man, who prefers to avoid grandeur. He has done a lot of charity work throughout his life, particularly for the poor, and is often described as having a “strong belief in social justice”. He has spoken out frequently against the Church’s opinion on unmarried mothers.

On the other hand, he is more conservative than some of the more liberal Catholics were perhaps hoping for – he is strongly opposed to same sex marriage, and disagrees with gay couples being allowed to adopt. On this issue, he said “at stake are the lives of many children who will be discriminated against, in being deprived of the human growth that God wanted to be given – through a mother, and a father”. He was similarly dismissive of same sex marriage, calling it “a destructive pretension against the plan of God”. He is also staunchly against abortion, calling the pro-choice movement a “culture of death”.

However, the decision to select a Jesuit, non Italian Pope from outside of Europe does indicate a willingness for change within the catholic hierarchy. Catholic movements have expressed their hope that Pope Francis will continue Benedict’s work on strengthening inter-faith relations, and that his history of charity work will have an impact on the controversial wealth of the Vatican.

And just to prove that a 76 year old is up to date with the social media age … the Pope’s Twitter account is now back in action. “HABEMUS PAPAM FRANCISCUM” was tweeted by @Pontifex shortly after his speech in St Peter’s Square.

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