The world’s 1.2 billion Catholics have a new leader.
Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina was elected the next pope on Thursday, March 14. He has taken the name Pope Francis.
The Catholic Church’s 266th pope, Pope Francis is the first to choose the name Francis, the first Latin American pope — in fact, the first in the modern era who does not hail from Europe — and the first Jesuit to be chosen to ascend to the papacy.
Pope Francis, 76, succeeds Pope Benedict XVI, who became the first pope to resign in hundreds of years. He stepped down Feb. 28.
A papal conclave, composed of the 115 Roman Catholic cardinals under the age of 80, convened at the Vatican Tuesday, March 12. Pope Francis was chosen on the second day of deliberations after the fifth round of balloting.
The new head of the church was born in 1936 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to Italian immigrant parents, and he has four brothers and sisters. He is known as a humble man and a champion of the poor who has led an austere life in the tradition of the conservative Jesuit sect to which he belongs.
Pope Francis holds traditionally conservative views, and so his choice as pope signals there will likely not be a major change in the direction of the Catholic Church when it comes to such issues as abortion, gay marriage, and the ordination of women.
However, Father Michael Dunn, pastor at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Weston, said that doesn’t mean the choice of Pope Francis doesn’t signify an important shift.
“I think it was a very exciting choice,” Father Dunn said. “I think he will bring a different feel and outlook on things.”
As the new pope was not “Roman born and Roman raised,” Father Dunn does not expect him to “follow the norm.” While he may hold traditional views on church doctrine, his distinct personality will bring a fresh outlook to some of the “tough issues” the church has been facing, the pastor said.
Father Dunn said he — and many of his parishioners — knew very little about Cardinal Bergoglio, as he wasn’t one of the more popular names being bandied about before the selection was made. But while it was initially a surprise, Father Dunn said, he believes the cardinals chose “the right man for the job.”
As someone who is very humble and low profile, someone who is a champion of the poor and the traditionally underserved, Pope Francis sets a different tone for the church moving forward, Father Dunn said.
The Weston pastor said the local parish was “very excited” to hear the cardinal chose the name Francis to honor the same saint for which Weston’s church is named. In addition to the local connection of sorts, the choice of name is significant, Father Dunn said, because St. Francis was known for his simple way of life and his dedication to the poor.
Pope Francis was officially installed on Tuesday, March 19.