The first Pope from the New World comes from Argentina, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio. The first Pope from the Society of Jesus, he is taking the name Francis, an historic first which nevertheless has a long tradition: St. Francis of Assisi (founder of the Franciscan order in the 12th Century) and St. Francis Xavier (one of the first Jesuits, whose evangelizing mission took him as far as Japan in the 16th Century) being two notable examples.
The new Bishop of Rome will also be the first Pope from the Southern Hemisphere, which is demographically a new Catholic center of gravity. He is 76 years old, and was second in the ballots that ended in Benedict XVI being elected Pope. It is rumored he was high in the running at every conclave ballot.
His welcoming address expressed excitement at the prospect of evangelizing the beautiful city of Rome, and included a recitation of an Our Father and a Hail Mary. He also requested a moment of silence for prayers on his behalf before giving his own blessing. He marveled that the cardinals had to look “to the ends of the earth” to find a Pope.
Bergoglio became Archibishop of Buenos Aires in 1998, where is style was known as “low key and close to the people.” He lived there in a small apartment, was known to ride the bus. He served his entire career in Argentina.
Bergoglio is no stranger to difficult times. He was a Jesuit provincial during Argentina’s military dictatorship 1976-1983.
Himself of Italian descent, Francis I comes from a country with one of the largest Italian populations outside of Italy. 53-60% of Argentina’s population of 23 million can claim Italian heritage.
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