Who is Pope Francis?
‘My people are poor and I am one of them’.
The 266th and the current Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis is known the world over for his great humility and approachability. Ordained as Pope at the age of 76 on March 13, 2013, Pope Francis is the first citizen from the Americas, the first non-European and first Jesuit priest to be named Pope. Before taking up the honourable appointment, he served as the Archbishop and Cardinal of Buenos Aires. He was originally christened Jorge Mario Bergoglio. Ever since his attainment of priesthood, Pope Francis has continuously and tirelessly worked for the well-being of the poor, which he claims to be his foremost concern. Furthermore, he is committed to bridge the gap between people of various backgrounds, class, beliefs and faith through peaceful talks. Unlike his predecessors, Pope Francis has chosen an informal approach to office since the Papal elections. He has declined to most luxuries offered to a Pope and instead prefers to live a simple and humble lifestyle. A few examples of the same include his decision to put up at the Vatican guesthouse rather than the papal residence, choosing a simple car rather than flashy popemobiles, wearing the white Cossack instead of the red mozzetta and iron pectoral cross instead of the gold one on his first appearance as a pontiff. Pope Francis strongly supports and considers social outreach, rather than doctrinal battles, to be the essential business of the church. While his radical thought on humbleness, practice of simplicity and austerity towards working out a robust defense of the poor has garnered positive accolades and acclaim, it is his staunch orthodox discerning against abortion, same-sex marriage, and contraception that has drawn criticism from a select few.
Childhood & Early Life
Pope Francis was born as Jorge Mario Bergoglio to Italian immigrants, Mario Jose Bergoglio and Regina Maria Sivori. Eldest of the five children of the couple, young Bergoglio was just like any other child.
He shared a fondness for dancing and traditional music of Argentina and Uruguay, known as milonga. Bergoglio attained his preliminary education from Wilfrid Baron de los Santos Angeles, post which he graduated from Escuela Nacional de Educacion Técnica No. 27 Hipolito Yrigoyen as a chemical technician.
Upon graduation, Bergoglio worked as a chemical technician in the foods section at the Hickethier-Bachmann Laboratory. However, he did not continue the same for long as he realized his true calling and ventured into priesthood.
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As A Jesuit
Deciding to pursue sainthood, Bergoglio gained admission at the Inmaculada Concepcion Seminary, in Villa Devoto, Buenos Aires. He moved out of the same after three years in 1958 and entered the Society of Jesus.
As a Jesuit novice, Bergoglio studied humanities in Santiago, Chile. It was in 1960 that Bergoglio officially became a Jesuit, when he made the religious profession of the initial, temporary vows of a member of the order.
Same year, i.e. in 1960, Bergoglio attended the Colegio de San Jose in San Miguel. He graduated with a degree in philosophy in 1963. Following year, Bergoglio took up the post of a teacher of literature and psychology at the Immaculate Conception College in Santa Fe.
He continued the vocation for a year after which in 1966, he moved to Colegio del Salvatore in Buenos Aires, where he taught the same subjects.
From 1967 until 1970, Bergoglio studied theology and obtained a degree from the Colegio of San Jose.
In 1969, Bergoglio was ordained as a priest by Archbishop Ramon Jose Castellano. It was during this time that he attended the Facultades de Filosofia y Teologia de San Miguel (Philosophical and Theological Faculty of San Miguel), a seminary in San Miguel, where he served as the master of novices and became a professor of theology.
From 1970 to 1971, Bergoglio completed his final stage of spiritual formation as a Jesuit at the University of Alcala de Henares, Spain.
He vowed his final profession with the Jesuits on April 22, 1973. Bergoglio was made the Provincial Superior of the Society of Jesus on July 1973, he served at this position for next six years.
After the completion of his term as Provincial Superior of the Society of Jesus, in 1980, he was named the rector of the Philosophical and Theological Faculty of San Miguel in San Miguel which he continued until 1986.
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In March 1986, Bergoglio moved to Germany to finish his doctoral thesis at the Sankt Georgen Graduate School of Philosophy and Theology in Frankfurt. Thereafter, he returned to Argentina to serve as a spiritual director and confessor at the Colegio del Salvador
As A Bishop
In 1992, Bergoglio was ordained as Titular Bishop of Auca and Auxiliary of Buenos Aires by Cardinal Antonio Quarracino.
Five years later, in 1997, he was promoted and appointed to the position of Coadjutor Archbishop of Buenos Aires. It was during this time that Bergoglio chose the episcopal motto, ‘Miserando atque eligendo’ meaning, ‘because he saw him through the eyes of mercy and chose him’.
Following the death of Cardinal Antonio Quarracino, in 1998, Bergoglio became Metropolitan Archbishop of Buenos Aires.
As an Archbishop, Bergoglio was involved in creation of new parishes and restructuring of the archdiocese administrative offices. He strengthened the presence of Church in the slums and underdeveloped areas of Buenos Aires. It was during his term that the number of priests working in these areas doubled in number.
In 1998, while Bergoglio was Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he was named ordinary (an officer of a church or civic authority who by reason of office has ordinary power to execute laws) for those Eastern Catholics in Argentina who lacked a prelate of their own rite.
Bergoglio while serving as an Archbishop made efforts to reconcile with Jeronimo Podesta, a former bishop who had been defrocked as a priest, because of his opposition to the military dictatorship during the 1970s.
It was during his service as a bishop that Bergoglio made it customary to celebrate the Holy Thursday ritual washing of feet in "a jail, a hospital, a home for the elderly or with poor people".
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As A Cardinal
In 2001, John Paul II conferred upon Archbishop Bergoglio the rank of Cardinal, with the title of cardinal-priest of San Roberto Bellarmino. Cardinal Bergoglio attained a reputation for personal humility, doctrinal conservatism and a commitment to social justice.
As a Cardinal, Bergoglio was appointed to five administrative positions in Roman Curia, including being member of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the Congregation for the Clergy, the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, the Pontifical Council for the Family and the Commission for Latin America.
During his period of service, Cardinal Bergoglio restricted himself to a simple lifestyle and a life of self-dependency. He did not seek any material benefits and comforts and lived a life of humility. In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, he was appointed as the General Relator to the 10th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Episcopal Ministry.
In 2005, Bergoglio was elected as President of the Argentine Bishops’ Conference, which he served for two terms until 2011. Same year, he participated in the Papal Conclave as a Cardinal elector in which Pope Benedict XVI was elected.
As A Pope
Following the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, a Papal Conclave was commissioned and election was held to adjudge the successor. It was on the second day of the conclave that Bergoglio was elected as the Pope. He was elected on 13 March 2013 on the fifth ballot of the conclave.
With his election, Bergoglio became the 266th pope of the Roman Catholic Church, the first citizen from the Americas, the first non-European and first Jesuit priest to be named pope.
Cardinal Bergoglio, now Pope, defied the norms and formalities of the position right from the very beginning. A few instances which prove the same are his acceptance of the cardinals' congratulations while standing instead of being seated, wearing the white Cossack instead of the red mozzetta and iron pectoral cross instead of the gold one worn by his predecessors, on his first appearance as a pontiff.
Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Bergoglio changed his name to Pope Francis after Saint Francis of Assisi. He had chosen the name because of his concern of the well-being of the poor. It is the first time that a pope has been named Francis.
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The Papal inauguration of Pope Francis was held on March 19, 2013 in St Peter’s Square in the Vatican. He celebrated the Mass amidst thousands of pilgrims and spiritual and religious leaders across the globe.
Immediately after his appointment, Pope Francis took several eye-twitching decisions, including the abolishing of the bonuses paid to Vatican employees upon the election of a new pope and the annual bonus paid to the cardinals serving on the Board of Supervisors for the Vatican bank, opting instead to donate the money to the poor. This was his first step towards his mission to safeguard the well-being of the poor.
Furthermore, Pope Francis elected eight Cardinals as his advisors for planning a revise in the Apostolic Constitution on the Roman Curia. Following the tradition of Holy Thursday, Pope Francis in his first Thursday visited a jail in Rome where he washed the feet of twelve inmates.
On his first Easter homily, Pope Francis took the opportunity to appeal for peace and harmony in the world. He advised people not to tread on the path of easy gain and give up greed for humanity, as it is the only way to protect environment.
Pope Francis issued his first canonization on May 12th 2013 in which all those who were canonized during the reign of Benedict XVI were approved. His canonizations included the first Colombian saint, Laura of Saint Catherine of Siena the second female Mexican saint, Maria Guadalupe Garcia Zavala, and the Martyrs of Otranto.
A true advocator of humility and self-effacement, Pope Francis has been noted for his commitment to serve the poor and needy and to bridge gaps between people of different backgrounds, faiths and beliefs. All through his life as a priest, Pope Francis has considered social outreach, rather than doctrinal battles, to be the essential business of the church.
In choosing the motto, Miserando atque eligendo, which stands for Jesus’ mercy towards sinners, Pope Francis highlights the importance and power of mercy. He has continuously prophesized the morality as a response to God’s mercy. Pope Francis is of the belief that morality is a revolution rather than an effort.
Ever since his attainment of priesthood, Pope Francis has procured accolades and appreciation for his stand against poverty and economic differences. He has blamed poverty and unjust economic structures of the society as the reigning cause for inequality and violation of human rights and has urged the world to get rid of the immoral, unjust and illegitimate social debt.
Pope Francis has voiced a strong opinion against bribery, homelessness and exploitation of the workers. He said that while the former numbed the conscience of a man, the latter showcases that the world is free from slavery only figuratively and not literally.
A traditionalist and a staunch orthodox, Pope Francis has clearly been a strong antagonist on matters of sexual morality, staunchly opposing abortion, same-sex marriage, and contraception. Though he argued that homosexuals should be treated with respect and consideration, the practice of homosexuality should not be indorsed.
He is the 266th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church. With this appointment, he became the first citizen from the Americas, the first non-European and first Jesuit priest to be named Pope.