First Pope from the New World elected

Meet the new pope - Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, was elected by the College of Cardinals after only five rounds of voting. Image from ABC News.

Meet the new pope – Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, was elected by the College of Cardinals after only five rounds of voting. Image from ABC News.

For the first time in the history of the Roman Catholic Church, the pope is a man from the New World. After only two days, the College of Cardinals chose an Argentinian as the new supreme leader of a billion Catholic faithful worldwide. When asked what he is to be called, Jorge Bergoglio decided on another papal first – he is to be Pope Francis I. The last pope to use an original papal name was Pope Lando in 914 AD (unless you count Pope John Paul I, who combined two papal names with long traditional histories). Pope Francis I chose the name in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, a famous church reformer and helper of the poor.

Pope Francis I is also the first Jesuit to be elected Pope. The Jesuits, aka “The Society of Jesus”, are a religious order within the Catholic Church that are considered the most well-educated and well-respected priests, monks, and missionaries. Not just anyone can be a Jesuit – candidates must go through a long and arduous admission period that can last as long as two years. Founded in 1534, in its early days it set itself to education, missionary work among non-Christians around the world, and trying to contain the spread of Protestantism. Over its history, it has generated plenty of controversy, even being suppressed and persecuted at one point, but it remains widely-respected for its work.

If that wasn’t enough firsts for you, Pope Francis I broke with a long-standing tradition when he addressed the crowds in St. Peter’s Square. Instead of blessing the crowd, as popes have usually done on their accession, he asked the crowd to pray for him. Oh, and he also refused to get on a traditional platform to stand above the cardinals. “He said I’ll stay down here,” Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, told CNN.

Not pictured: platform.

Not pictured: platform.

Speculation already abounds that he may become a major reformer – though other voices are more cautious. He does now assume responsibility for the Church’s many, many problems: including the sex abuse scandal that it just can’t seem to get past, and declining membership in many countries, particularly in Europe. That is a tall order for a man with only one lung. The new pope had one of his lungs removed as a teenager due to an infection.

Born in Buenos Aires in 1936, the future pope was one of five children born to Italian immigrant parents. He trained as a chemist for a time before switching careers and entering the priesthood. He became a Jesuit in 1958 and a bishop in 1992, eventually being promoted to Archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1998. He was made a cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 2001. During his long career in Argentina, he used his position to help protect people who were wanted by the dictatorial governments that ruled the country from 1976 to 1983. He has spoken out against inequality and in support of the poor; as archbishop, he lived in an apartment instead of the designated palace provided for him, took public transportation from place to place, and cooked his own meals. He has also taken strong stances against child abuse. However, he has also taken conservative stances regarding abortion, contraceptives, and homosexuality – he adamantly opposes all of them. The new pope allegedly loves tango and is a soccer fan. According to CNN, he was the runner-up in the election that brought Benedict XVI to the papacy in 2005.

Pope Francis St Peter's Square Catholic reaction

Crowds cheer on the new Pope in St. Peter’s Square. Image from AFP/Getty Images

The new pope starts his first full day in office today taking Mass with the College of Cardinals. He will wait to be formally installed until Tuesday, the Feast of St. Joseph.

Information from CNN and Wikipedia.