Catholic Company / Magazine

Get to Know Our New Holy Father: Pope Francis

Mar 13, 2013 by

We have a new pope! Habemus Papem!

Habemus Papam! ("We Have a Pope!") is the announcement given in Latin by the senior Cardinal Deacon upon the election of a new pope. Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, today elected Supreme Pontiff by his brother Cardinals, has taken the name Pope Francis.  It has been confirmed by a Vatican spokesman that this name is chosen for  St. Francis of Assisi (and not St. Francis Xavier, the amazing Jesuit evangelist to Asia; although Xavier also was named after Assisi).  Cardinal Bergoglio has consistently kept a strong commitment to the poor and marginalized,  forgoing the pomp and luxury associated with his office for austere living . . . just like St. Francis of Assisi.

St. Francis of Assisi was commissioned by Christ to "Repair My Church" while he was praying in front of the San Damiano Crucifix.  St. Francis (1182-1226) went on to found the Order of Friars Minor (the Franciscans), the great mendicant friars and evangelists who shunned the world for Christ and took vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. It is fitting that our new Holy Father has chosen this saint for himself, considering the tough task ahead of repairing the bruised Church and leading her into the frontiers of the New Evangelization initiated by his predecessors.

A Pope of Firsts

Pope Francis is already making waves on his first day in office as a novel Holy Father. He is the:

  • First Pope of from the Americas
  • First Latin American Pope
  • First Pope from the Southern Hemisphere
  • First non-European leader in more than a millennium
  • First Jesuit Pope
  • First Pope named Francis

Quick Facts

  • He's 76 years old & of Italian descent
  • He was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on December 17, 1936
  • He's one of the five children of an Italian railway worker and his wife
  • He's the former archbishop of Buenos Aires appointed in 1997
  • Latin America is home to nearly half of the world’s Catholics
  • He taught literature and psychology in Buenos Aires
  • He was ordained a priest on December 13, 1969, at the age of 33
  • Pope John Paul II made him a cardinal in 2001
  • He studied theology in Germany
  • He has experience at the Vatican, but is not an "insider"
  • He was the runner up in 2005 conclave, after Cardinal Ratzinger
  • He was elected Pope in the fifth round of voting at the conclave
  • He secured a two-thirds majority 24 hours after the conclave began
  • He is unwaveringly orthodox with traditional Ignatian spirituality

History & Accomplishments

  • He studied for a master’s in chemical engineering at the University of Buenos Aires, then went to seminary in Santiago, Chile.
  • He has served on the following committees: Congregation of Clergy, Congregation of Divine Worship and Sacraments, Congregation of Institutes of Consecrated Life, the Congregation of Societies of Apostolic Life, the Pontifical Council for the Family, and the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.
  • After John Paul II made Bergoglio a cardinal in 2001, he assigned him the Roman church named after the Jesuit Saint Robert Bellarmino: Doctor of the Church, top Council of Trent theologian, and Counter-Reformation scholar.
  • He served as the ordinary for Eastern Catholics in Argentina and is familiar with the mass of St. Chrysostom. Because of this his relations with Eastern Orthodox Christians is anticipated to be strong.

What We Saw Today

According to one Catholic blogger,  Cardinal Bergoglio is "known for his humility, doctrinal conservatism, defender of the Church's moral theology, and a commitment to social justice."  Humility was the first mark of his pontificate; after Pope Francis was led out on the balcony and presented to the world, he first led everyone in prayer for Pope Benedict XVI, then asked for their prayers while bowing to receive them (shown above). And, of course, he chose the name St. Francis, a saint so humble that he did not see himself worthy enough to be a priest; St. Francis of Assisi chose to remain a simple friar as he served the poor and preached the Gospel.  Shortly after he was elected,  Pope Francis placed a phone call to his predecessor, Benedict XVI, an act of giving honor to whom honor is due.

Read Pope Francis' first words to the world here.

Here's a great post from earlier today found on The Gregorian Institute Blog. According to Dr. Edward Mulholland, the three keys to Pope Francis' pontificate will be humility, reform and evangelization:

"Humility: You saw it. His first act as pope, before blessing his people, was to pray for his predecessor and then to bow down before his flock and ask for their prayers. Even as Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Juan Mario Bergoglio lived in a small dwelling, not a palace, cooked for himself, and often took public transportation. He is a Latin American Jesuit with a huge heart for Social Justice, and yet distanced himself early on from currents of "Liberation Theology," which would have us practice the Gospel seen through a Marxist prism. Such a stance may have made him unpopular in his seminary days. It takes humility to buck trends and stick to the truth. It takes humility to recognize your own weakness and ask for prayers. It takes humility to live humbly as a prince of the Church

"Reform: Pope Francis has worked with the Curia, but he is an outsider, not an insider. He said the cardinals went to the “end of the earth” to find him. And he picks a name not ever used before. This marks something new. Francis of Assisi was asked by God to rebuild his Church. He at first thought it was the run-down church of San Damiano. He soon learned it was the whole Church, through a humble living of the Gospel.  Pope Francis I will be a man of reform. He has an Italian last name but a new fresh perspective. It will not be business as usual in Rome for long.

"Evangelization: For a Jesuit, the first Francis that comes to mind would not be the Poverello of Assisi, but St. Francis Xavier, one of St. Ignatius’ first “Company of Jesus,” whose native language, Spanish, Jorge Bergoglio shares. Converted as a young man in college, St. Francis Xavier went to the ends of the earth to preach the Gospel, including Japan, before dying on the island of Goa. At the upcoming World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, you will hear the new Pope tell the youth of the world that story and challenge them to be like Francis Xavier. Bet on it. This will be a pontificate that is marked by a reinvigorated New Evangelization."

We are very excited about our new Holy Father.  Join with us in prayer for him!

Pre-order your Pope Francis portrait to hang in your parish, school, or home here.