As the world watched with anticipation this week, the Catholic Church ushered in its 266th Pope. The man chosen was Jorge Mario Bergoglio. I was excited to hear who had been chosen and to learn of his extremely conservative leanings. Perhaps this was the turning point that many in the church have been waiting for.
The new Pope was born in Argentina on December 17, 1936. Pope Francis is part of the Jesuit Order and will mark two firsts in Vatican history. Francis is the first Jesuit Pope as well as the first Pope from the Americas. Many of those close to him describe Francis as man of amazing faith and very down to earth. As a testament to this, after being named as the next Pope, Francis went himself to get his luggage from his hotel room and stopped off at a local church to pray. Francis chose to name himself after St. Francis of Assisi.
This holds much importance due to the fact that St. Francis was renowned for his work with the poor and underprivileged. However, more important is that the election of Bergoglio is a signal that the Catholic Church is moving back to the traditional theology and is ready to clean house in its own ranks as well.
A few weeks ago I became aware of a story that was surfacing in Italian newspapers about a sect of cardinals known as the “Gay Lobby” or the “Homo Mafia.” There were several rumors that Pope Benedict, Francis’ predecessor, stepped down due to this gay lobby. The Vatican will not confirm or deny this charge but many involved with Catholic journalism say it is highly unlikely. Either way this exposes what many have feared for quite some time. The Catholic Church is in need of some hope and change. Unlike our American bringer of hope and change, the new Pope is seen by many to be a man of action.
St. Francis was not always a holy man above reproach either. He was described as a playboy who often found himself in trouble. However, on his was way to a fight in a neighboring city, St. Francis was told by God to return home. He returned home and took up a life of prayer and solitude. He later went to Rome on a pilgrimage and gave all of his money to the poor and traded close with a homeless man. St. Francis then received a vision form God. God told him, “Go, Francis, and repair my house, which as you see is falling into ruin.”
The name chose by the new Pontifex Maximus could be a signal that Bergoglio has also heard God’s call and is returning to repair his house once again. This could be a turning point for the Catholic Church. I am sure that the battle for the soul of the Catholic Church will be long and hard but from what I have seen and heard Pope Francis may be the best chance. Let’s just cross our fingers that Hope and Change works out better in Vatican City than it did in Washington, D.C.
ImageL Cardinal Jorge M. Bergoglio SJ, (later to become Pope Francis); author:Aibdescalzo; Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license