New pope represents many firsts

Religion | Leigh Jones

New pope represents many firsts

Pope Francis I
Associated Press/Photo by Gregorio Borgia

The College of Cardinals, on the fifth vote of the papal conclave, chose Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires as the next pope.

White smoke poured from the top of the Sistine Chapel at about 7 p.m. (2 p.m. EDT) Tuesday. Bergoglio appeared on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica about 90 minutes later.

Crowds thronged St. Peter’s Square, cheering, waving flags, and snapping photos as they waited for the big announcement. When it came, the crowd’s noise almost drowned out Cardinal Protodeacon Jean-Louis Pierre Tauran as he read from a large red folio held open before him by two priests. American news broadcasters scrambled to figure out what exactly Tauran said, their confusion compounded by the Latin used for the official proclamation.

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Bergoglio, 76, will be the first pope known as Francis, a possible tribute to St. Francis of Assisi, whom the new pope is said to imitate, or it could be in honor of St. Francis Xavier, co-founder of the Society of Jesus, or Jesuits, of which Bergoglio is a member, making him the first ever Jesuit pope.

In his native Argentina, Pope Francis is known as a man of the people. After becoming archbishop, he gave up his official residence and driver, preferring to live in a small apartment, cook his own meals, and take the bus to be closer to his flock. Members of the faithful often sought an impromptu audience with their cardinal as he rode to work.

Although he is of Italian descent, Francis is the first non-European pope in the modern era, a significant shift for the church. Vatican watchers had speculated the 115 cardinals would select someone from South America or Africa to be their next leader because of the church’s growth in those parts of the world. Spanish is now spoken more than any other language in Catholic churches around the world, and Latin America has the largest share of the world’s Catholics.

Francis is known for his self-effacing humility and his affinity for pastoral work. His personal style is the antithesis of the Vatican’s splendor and ritual. The new pope is rumored to have received the second most votes in 2005 when Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger became Benedict XVI.

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