Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Habemus Papam

Today His Eminence Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio was elected to the See of St Peter, the new Bishop of Rome and Supreme Pontiff, taking the name of His Holiness Pope Francis I. As the new pope said himself, the cardinals went to the "end of the earth" to find a shepherd. He is the first Latin American pope, the first pope from the "New World" but is also obviously of Italian ancestry as a great many Argentinians are and he is the first member of the Society of Jesus to be elected to the Holy See, making this an historic moment on many fronts. He is also the first pope since the earliest leaders of the Church not to take the name of one of his predecessors, choosing instead the name of St Francis, a symbol of his famous humility. At home in Argentina he is known for his refusal to live in the episcopal palace, for carrying his own luggage and for riding the bus, making him known already as a pope of the "common man" or a "people's pope". He is known for being rather liberal when it comes to economic issues but conservative on social and religious issues. His new style was evident from the very start, his first words being, in Argentinian accented Italian, "good evening". He appeared without the usual red mantle and stole, donning the stole only temporarily for the apostolic blessing which he gave after asking the people to pray for him and leading the public in the Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be for his predecessor Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. It remains to be seen how he will rule but, for now, the wait is over, the See is no longer vacant, Francis I is the new Vicar of Christ and Successor of St Peter. Viva il Papa!

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