Habemus Papam: first South American to lead the church

The new pope, Jorge Mario Bergoglio will be called Francis, the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. He is also the first non-European pope in more than 1,200 years and the first member of the Jesuit order to lead the church.

He appeared on the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica just over an hour after white smoke poured from a chimney on the roof of the Sistine Chapel to signal 115 cardinal electors had chosen him to lead the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics.

“Pray for me,” the new pontiff, dressed in the white robes of a pope for the first time, urged a crowd of tens of thousands of people waiting in the square below. “I would like to thank you for your embrace,” the new pope said as thousands cheered joyously below. “My brother cardinals have chosen one who is from far away, but here I am.”

Francis I is 76 years old. Being a philosopher and literary man he has a degree in Chemistry and Psychology as well.

Bergoglio was a moderate rival candidate at the 2005 conclave to the conservative Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who went on to become Benedict.

A doctrinal conservative, Francis has opposed liberation theology, abortion, gay marriage and the ordination of women, standing with his predecessor in holding largely traditional views. Although a conservative theologically, Francis is known for his concern for the poor and is expected to bring a radical change of style to the Church leadership, indicated by his choice for the first time of the name of St Francis of Assisi, who died in 1226 after living a life of poverty and simplicity.

Francis is known as a humble man who led an austere life in Buenos Aires travelling by public transport and living in a small apartment outside Buenos Aires. He was born to Italian immigrant parents and was raised in the capital of Argentina.

He engaged in a “complicit silence” when Argentina was ruled by a brutal junta Bergoglio was head of Argentina’s Jesuit order from 1973 to 1979. As a result, he was part of the Catholic hierarchy that failed to “openly confront” the 1976-1983 military junta. According to unofficial information, the new pope withdrew support for two priests who were kidnapped and tortured by the junta in 1976 .



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