Two weeks after Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI stood down the Papacy, eligible cardinal electorates unexpectedly elected a non-contender for the Papacy in the person of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires in Argentina with the papal name of Pope Francis, in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi. His election was not expected for several reasons: first, there were many contenders vying the papacy including his compatriot, Leonardo Sandri; second, his advanced age of 76 did not gave him an edge over other papables like Odilo Scherer of Sao Paulo or Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila; and third, he was the runner up according to insiders in Vatican during the 2005 Conclave that elected his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI from 19 April 2005 to 28 February 2013. I myself was surprised with his election as hours before the white smote came out from the Sistine Chapel, I was anticipating the Archibishop of Milan, Angelo Scola as the new pope, but unfortunately he wasn’t due to the allegations of having ties with the notorious Italian mafia.
Let me introduce who Pope Francis I. Pope Francis I or Jorge Mario Bergoglio in real life was born on 17 December 1936 in Buenos Aires, Argentina to Mario José Bergoglio and Regina María Sílvori, both were Italian immigrants to Argentina. When he was teenager, his lung had to be removed due to infection. He studied and received master’s degree in chemistry at the University of Buenos Aires before he decided to pursue an ecclesiastical career.
Bergoglio entered the Society of Jesus on 11 March 1958 and studied to become a priest at the Jesuit seminary in Villa Devoto. In 1960, Bergoglio obtained a licentiate in philosophy from the Colegio Máximo San José in San Miguel; in 1964 and 1965, he taught literature and psychology at the Colegio de la Inmaculada, a high school in the province of Santa Fe, Argentina, and in 1966 he taught the same courses at the Colegio del Salvador in Buenos Aires.
In 1967, Bergoglio finished his theological studies and was ordained to the priesthood on 13 December 1969, by Archbishop Ramón José Castellano. He attended the Facultades de Filosofía y Teología de San Miguel (Philosophical and Theological Faculty of San Miguel), a seminary in San Miguel, Buenos Aires province. Bergoglio attained the position of novice master there and became professor of theology.
The Society of Jesus promoted Bergoglio and he served as provincial for Argentina from 1973 to 1979. He was transferred in 1980 to become the rector of the seminary in San Miguel, and served in that capacity until 1986. He worked on a doctoral dissertation at Sankt Georgen in Germany and returned to Argentina to serve as confessor and spiritual director in Córdoba.
Bergoglio was named Auxiliary Bishop of Buenos Aires in 1992 and was ordained on 27 June 1992 as Titular Bishop of Auca, with His Eminence, Antonio Cardinal Quarracino, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, serving as principal consecrator.
Bergoglio succeeded Cardinal Quarracino as Archbishop of Buenos Aires on 28 February 1998 and was concurrently named ordinary for Eastern Catholics in Argentina, who had lacked their own prelate.
At the consistory of 21 February 2001, Archbishop Bergoglio was created a cardinal by Pope John Paul II with the title of cardinal-priest of San Roberto Bellarmino. As cardinal, Bergoglio was appointed to several administrative positions in the Roman Curia:
- Member of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments
- Member of the Congregation for the Clergy
- Member of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life
- Member of the Pontifical Council for the Family
- Member of the Commission for Latin America
Cardinal Bergoglio became known for personal humility, doctrinal conservatism and a commitment to social justice. A simple lifestyle contributed to his reputation for humility. He lived in a small apartment, rather than in the palatial bishop’s residence. He gave up his chauffeured limousine in favor of public transportation.
On the death of Pope John Paul II, Bergoglio was considered one of the papabile cardinals. He participated as a cardinal elector in the 2005 papal conclave that selected Pope Benedict XVI. La Stampa reported that Bergoglio was in close contention with Ratzinger during the election, until he made an emotional plea that the cardinals should not vote for him.Earlier, he had participated in the funeral of Pope John Paul II and acted as a regent alongside the College of Cardinals, governing the Holy See and the Roman Catholic Church during the interregnum sede vacante period.
During the 2005 Synod of Bishops, he was elected a member of the Post-Synodal council. Catholic journalist John L. Allen, Jr. reported that Bergoglio was a frontrunner in the 2005 Conclave. An unauthorized diary of uncertain authenticity released in September 2005 confirmed that Bergoglio was the runner-up and main challenger of Cardinal Ratzinger at that conclave. The purported diary of the anonymous cardinal claimed Bergoglio received 40 votes in the third ballot, but fell back to 26 at the fourth and decisive ballot.
On 8 November 2005, Bergoglio was elected President of the Argentine Episcopal Conference for a three-year term (2005–2008) by a large majority of the Argentine bishops, which according to reports confirms his local leadership and the international prestige earned by his alleged performance in the conclave. He was reelected on 11 November 2008.
As a cardinal, Bergoglio was associated with Communion and Liberation, a conservative Catholic association of the faithful.
His relations with the Argentine government especially with the Kirchner governments from Nestor to Cristina was frozy at its best as he opposed some of the initiatives of Cristina Kirchner like the legalization of same-sex marriages in Argentina in 2010, his suspected ties with the last military junta of Jorge Videla where he was involved with the kidnapping of 2 Jesuit priests by the Argentine Navy during his stint as the Superior General of Jesuits in Argentina according to Horacio Verbitsky, an Argentine investigative journalist.
His views on social issues are no different from his two predecessors of the late Pope John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, although he showed his affection on dealing economic inequality and poverty.
I would like to congratulate the new pope, Francis I, the Catholic Church, and the Argentine people and I wish to have the Catholic Church able to deal with the growing social and economic changes of the increasing globalized world.
VIVA PAPA FRANCISCO!
VIVA LA ARGENTINA!
NOTE: Most of the contents are derived from Wikipedia.