As Jackson Adams has noted, the election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio as pontiff is historically significant because he is the first Pope to take the name Francis, the first from the Americas (indeed he is the first non-European Pope in well over a millennium) and the first Jesuit Pope.
He further notes that the new Pope lived modestly during his time as Archbishop of Buenos Aires and was known to take the bus. However, I doubt Pope Francis will never again utilize public transportation. There are practical reasons of course. Let us not forget the assassination attempt against Pope John Paul II in 1981.
I have no doubt that Francis will continue to live a simple life. Yet the trappings of power can overcome even the most holy and humble of men.
Given that Francis is 76, his papacy will very likely be a short one. Of course, given the long reign of Pope John Paul II it is easy to forget that most Popes are lucky to last a decade. As such the task of rebuilding the Catholic Church will far outlast the stewardship of Francis. At the very minimum, it will take a generation to restore the Church’s prestige and this is probably an optimistic assessment.
As I have written previously, the Catholic Church is most likely to regain trust through deeds rather than words. This isn’t to say there aren’t Catholic institutions engaged in good deeds. There most certainly are. But there is much work to be done. Its reputation will not be restored until it is no longer perceived as being synonymous with sexual abuse.
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