‘Let’s begin this journey’

| March 20, 2013 | 0 Comments

First pope from Latin America has always been close to the people

Pope Francis greets people after celebrating Mass at St. Anne Parish within the Vatican March 17. The new pope greeted every person leaving the small church and then walked over to meet people waiting around St. Anne's Gate. CNS photo / Paul Haring

Pope Francis greets people after celebrating Mass at St. Anne Parish within the Vatican March 17. The new pope greeted every person leaving the small church and then walked over to meet people waiting around St. Anne’s Gate. CNS photo / Paul Haring

Pope Francis, 76, is the first pope in history to come from the Western Hemisphere and the first non-European to be elected in almost 1,300 years.

The Jesuit was also the first member of his order to be elected pope, and the first member of any religious order to be elected in nearly two centuries.

His election March 13 came on the second day of the conclave, on its fifth ballot. It was announced in Latin from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica to a massive crowd in the square below and millions watching around the world.

When he appeared on the balcony, he sought prayers for Pope Benedict and spoke of the journey the church was about to begin.

“Now let’s begin this journey, bishop and people, this journey of the church of Rome, which is the one that presides in charity over all the churches — a journey of brotherhood, love and trust among us,” he said.

“Now I would like to give my blessing. But first, I will ask a favor. Before the bishop blesses his people, he asks that you pray to the Lord to bless me, the prayer of the people for the blessing of their bishop. Let’s pray for me in silence,” he said.

Low-key style

Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, is pictured walking through a subway turnstile in Buenos Aires in 2008 CNS photo / Diego Fernandez Otero, Clarin handout via Reuters

Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, is pictured walking through a subway turnstile in Buenos Aires in 2008 CNS photo / Diego Fernandez Otero, Clarin handout via Reuters

Since 1998, Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio had been archbishop of Buenos Aires, where his style was low-key and close to the people. He rode the bus, visited the poor, lived in a simple apartment and cooked his own meals. To many in Buenos Aires, he has been known simply as “Father Jorge.”

He also created new parishes, restructured the administrative offices, led pro-life initiatives and started new pastoral programs, such as a commission for divorcees. He co-presided over the 2001 Synod of Bishops and was elected to the synod council, so he is well-known to the world’s bishops.

The pope has also written books on spirituality and meditation and has been outspoken against abortion and same-sex marriage.

In 2010, when Argentina became the first Latin American country to legalize same-sex marriage, Pope Francis encouraged clergy across the country to tell Catholics to protest against the legislation because, if enacted, it could “seriously injure the family.”

He also said adoption by same-sex couples would result in “depriving [children] of the human growth that God wanted them given by a father and a mother.”

In 2006, he criticized an Argentine proposal to legalize abortion under certain circumstances as part of a wide-ranging legal reform. He accused the government of lacking respect for the values held by the majority of Argentines and of trying to convince the Catholic Church “to waver in our defense of the dignity of the person.”

His role often forced him to speak publicly about the economic, social and political problems facing his country. His homilies and speeches are filled with references to the fact that all people are brothers and sisters and that the church and the country need to do what they can to make sure that everyone feels welcome, respected and cared for.

While not overtly political, Pope Francis has not tried to hide the political and social impact of the Gospel message, particularly in a country still recovering from a serious economic crisis.

Working class background

francis_bio

Click to enlarge

Jorge Mario Bergoglio was born Dec. 17, 1936, in Buenos Aires. He grew up in Barrio de Flores, a working-class neighborhood. His father was a railway worker, his mother a homemaker. As a youth, the pope studied in public schools, and in high school obtained a technical certification as a chemist.

From a young age, he knew he would become a priest. Amalia Damonte, who grew up in the pope’s neighborhood, reportedly was briefly the object of his affections. Damonte, who still lives in the same neighborhood, has said in interviews that when they were 12, Pope Francis said that, if he could not marry her, he would become a priest.

When the pope was 21, he became gravely ill with severe pneumonia and had his right lung partially removed. The Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, has confirmed this, noting that it is “not a handicap” in the pope’s life.

In 1958, Pope Francis entered the novitiate of the Society of Jesus, and two years later he took his first vows as a Jesuit. Later, on returning to Buenos Aires, he studied philosophy at San Miguel Seminary.

Between 1964 and 1965, he taught literature and psychology at a Jesuit secondary school in Santa Fe, Argentina, and in 1966, he taught at the prestigious Colegio del Salvador secondary school in Buenos Aires.

In 1967, he returned to his theological studies, and was ordained a priest Dec. 13, 1969. After his perpetual profession as a Jesuit in 1973, he became master of novices at San Miguel. Later that same year, he was elected superior of the Jesuit province of Argentina and Uruguay.

Some controversy had arisen over the position taken by Pope Francis during Argentina’s 1976-1983 military dictatorship, which cracked down brutally on political opponents. Estimates of the number of people killed and who forcibly disappeared during those years range from about 13,000 to more than 30,000.

Citing a case in which two young Jesuits were detained by the military regime, critics say that the Jesuit provincial did not do enough to support church workers against the military dictatorship.

The Vatican has dismissed claims that Pope Francis played a direct role in the ­kidnappings of the two Jesuits and described them as part of a campaign by “left-wing anti-clerical elements to attack the church.”

From 1979 to 1985, Pope Francis served as rector and theology teacher at Colegio Maximo before heading to Germany to finalize his doctoral thesis.

In May 1992, he was appointed auxiliary bishop of Buenos Aires. He was one of three auxiliaries and he kept a low profile, spending most of his time caring for the Catholic university, counseling priests and preaching and hearing confessions.

On June 3, 1997, he was named coadjutor archbishop. He was installed as the new archbishop of Buenos Aires Feb. 28, 1998.

As archbishop, he adopted the attitude that the church belongs in the street. He built chapels and missions in poor areas and sent seminarians to serve them. He spoke out often against injustice, such as the treatment of migrant workers from neighboring countries and those lured into the sex trade.

In 2001, he was elevated to cardinal, and later that year he served as an official of the Synod of Bishops at the Vatican.

Press reports indicate that in the 2005 conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Bergoglio received the second-highest number of votes.

That same year, he began a six-year term as head of the Argentine bishops’ conference.

Tags: ,

Category: Welcome Pope Francis