Catholics around the world rejoiced as a puff of white smoke rose above the Vatican, heralding the cardinal’s election of a new Pope – Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina. Cardinal Bergoglio will take the name “Pope Francis.”
The fact that Pope Francis is the first non-European Pope to be elected acknowledges that Europe is no longer home to the world’s Catholic majority. Instead, the greatest number of Catholics live in Africa and Latin America.
Tens of thousands of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics stood for hours in St. Peter’s Square, awaiting word of this momentous announcement. Upon seeing the white smoke, the crowd started shouting “Habemus Papam” (“We Have a Pope”), and long as “Long live the Pope.” Vatican and Italian military bands both marched into the square and up the Vatican steps. They were followed by the Vatican’s Swiss Guard, in their colorful regalia with silver helmets.
The occasion for this election was Pope Benedict XVI’s historic decision to retire due to declining health. Benedict, Formerly Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, was the first Pope in 600 years to retire.
Pope Francis is a 76 year old native of Argentina (although his father was Italian). After studying at a seminary in Argentina, he entered the Society of Jesus in 1958. He has a degree in Philosophy, and taught literature and psychology in Buenos Aires. Pope Francis was formally ordained as a priest in 1969. Because of his manifestly impressive leadership skills, he rose quickly in the administrative ranks of the Society of Jesus.
The new Pope has traditional views on contested issues. He opposes abortion and euthanasia. Although he supports the church’s traditional teaching that homosexuality is a sin, he has consistently urged that Catholics must treat homosexuals with respect. Unsurprisingly, Pope Francis strongly opposes same-sex marriage.
By electing Pope Francis, the Cardinals have reaffirmed their commitment to core Catholic doctrine. They will not lash out at those whose lives or beliefs are at odds with the doctrine, but they will not back down on central tenets of faith and life.
(Written by Bookworm; originally published at Mr. Conservative.)