The new pope, 76 year old Jorge Mario Bergoglio (pronounced Ber-GOAL-io) has chosen to be called Francis.
He is the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. He is also the first non-European leader of the church in more than 1,000 years. This is historical and a huge step toward advancement for the Catholic church. Four more years with an African American man as Commander and Chief and now the Catholic church chooses a non-European as its leader.
This choice doesn't come without intent. In choosing him, the cardinals are sending a powerful message, and the message is that the future of the Church lies in the Global South. Which is home to the bulk of the world’s Catholics.
“I would like to thank you for your embrace,” said the new pope, adorned in white garments as he spoke from the balcony on St. Peter’s Basilica as thousands rejoiced. “My brother cardinals have chosen one who is from far away, but here I am.”
He also spoke in Italian as he blessed those faithful to the Catholic faith. Francis wished them “good night, and have a good rest.”
“Habemus papam!,” members of the crowd shouted in Latin, as they waved umbrellas and flags. “We have a pope!” Others waled “Viva il Papa!”
“It was like waiting for the birth of a baby, only better, " commented a Roman man. A child waved a crucifix as he sat atop his father’s shoulders.
Francis was formerly the head of the church’s influential Jesuit order, and is known as a humble man who led an austere life in Buenos Aires. He is the offspring of Italian immigrant parents and was raised in the Argentine capital.
He inherits a church struggling with an array of difficulties that heightened during the reign of his predecessor, Benedict XVI. These difficulties range from a priest shortage and growing competition from evangelical churches in the Southern Hemisphere, to a sexual abuse crisis that is undermining the church’s moral authority in the West, to problems governing the Vatican itself.
The former Pope- Benedict suddenly ended his problematic eight-year papacy last month after claiming he was no longer up to the job.
He is the first pontiff in 598 years to resign. The 115 cardinals, all under the age of 80 and eligible to vote chose their new leader after only two days of voting.
Before voting by secret ballot in the Sistine Chapel on Tuesday, in an enclosed meeting known as a conclave, the cardinals swore an oath of secrecy in Latin, a rite practiced to shield their selection from outside scrutiny, and protect the cardinals from earthly influence as they pursue divine guidance.
Congratulations to Pope Francis and I wish the Catholic church the best in seeking God to resolve their difficulties.