Almost an hour and a half after white smoke signaled the conclave’s decision on pope, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, or Francis I, emerged. He will be the church’s first non-European pope in a thousand years. He is also the first Jesuit to become pope. So who is this guy?
- He was effectively the “runner-up” last time around, perhaps signaling church regrets about the selection of Benedict.
- He is 76 years old.
- He is known to be a conservative, theologically speaking.He is especially conservative for a Jesuit, who often tend towards the liberal/liberation theology side of things.
- He is homophobic and anti-abortion. He called adoption by homosexuals a form of “discrimination against children”. He is also anti-contraception.
- He is known as a cardinal of the people, is known for taking the bus to church, cooking his own meals, and visiting poor areas frequently.
- He tends to shun media attention, preferring a fairly private life. How this is going to mesh with him being pope will be interesting, to say the least.
- He once washed and kissed the feet of HIV/AIDS patients.
- Bergoglio was hit by a fairly frivolous accusation of aiding in the kidnapping of two priests during Argentina’s military Junta. At the same time, he’s been reluctant to testify in cases about the Dirty War, and he critiqued Argentina’s leftist guerillas for being just as bad as the Junta. But the leftists didn’t throw people out of planes.
- However, Bergoglio was instrumental in getting Argentina’s Catholic Church to finally apologize for not standing up to the Junta.
- And he hid people from Argentina’s military junta in his church. So his record when it comes to standing up to tyranny is very, very complicated.
My thoughts: Since we basically knew that the Catholic Church was probably going to put in a conservative with views out of line with most Catholics on abortion, homosexuality, and contraception, at least they put in a guy who is committed to helping the poor/isn’t European. Hopefully he’ll be just as committed to cleaning up the secretive Vatican culture.
UPDATE: The Guardian just posted “13 key facts about Pope Francis.” Among the most important is that he criticized those who refused to baptize the children of single mothers, he only has one working lung (and has lived that way for fifty years), he lives in a small flat rather than a lush apartment, like many cardinals, and he told Argentineans to not visit him in Vatican City to celebrate his appointment but instead to give money to the poor.