The new Pontiff of the Catholic Church with its 1.2 billion adherents worldwide, Pope Francis I, is an epitome of simplicity and humility.
As Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio and Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, the 76-year-old has a reputation for cooking his food and driving himself around the Argentine Capital.
Though the first non-European Pope in the last 1500 years, the 266th Pope of the Catholic Church, though from South (Latin) America, has European blood in his veins as his father was an Italian immigrant railway worker.
This quality of humility and simplicity was brought to the fore, while in his first outing and introduction to the hundreds of thousands of expectants faithful from all over the world had converged at the Vatican to receive their new pope, Pope Francis in a moving gesture, appealed to them “to pick him as the new leader of the Catholic globally.
Pope Francis has scored a number of firsts including the first Jesuit Priest to be a Pope, the first Pope of South American origin and the first Pope to pick a name from outside the traditional list preferred by previous Popes, hence, Pope Francis, 1st after the name of St. Francis of Assissi famous for his self denial and service to the poor.
Though he is expected to change direction in the administration of the Church, he is not expected to deviate much from the uncompromising moral teachings of Pope Benedict and John Paul II as he has spoken out strongly against gay marriage calling it “an attempt to destroy God’s Plan.”
He has served as the Archbishop of Buenos Aires since 1998, and became a cardinal in 2001. Born in Buenos Aires, Bergoglio has a master’s degree in chemistry at the University of Buenos Aires. He became a Jesuit priest after receiving his chemistry degree.
During the 2005 conclave, Bergoglio had the second highest number of votes on each of the four ballots, according to the Catholic News Service.
The decision by the 115 voting cardinals gathered in Vatican City of who will lead the 1.2 billion Roman Catholics in the world was made relatively quickly, with the cardinals only starting to gather on Wednesday. On day two, white smoke could be seen streaming out of the Sistine Chapel’s chimney, signaling that a new pope had been elected.
The cardinal conclave this week is special in that the former pope is still alive and is the first pope in nearly 600 years to step down from the position of Pontiff. The last Roman Catholic Church head to do so was Pope Gregory XII, who did so to end the Great Schism when several clerics claimed the position.
Benedict announced that he would step down from the office on Feb. 11, citing “advanced aged” as the reason for his resignation. He officially stepped down at the end of last month. Benedict, who is 85, said, “After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.”
“Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff.”
Benedict’s election had taken less than 24 hours, being that he was very close to Pope John II and was understood to be the successor. The past six popes have all been elected within four days.
Benedict, who now has the title of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, did not participate in voting for his successor, according to USA Today.