VATICAN CITY — “Habemus Papam! We have a pope!”
The cry rose up in St. Peter’s Square earlier today and was echoed around the Province as white smoke billowed from the Sistine Chapel chimney announcing the conclave had made its decision. Just over an hour later, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, SJ, of Argentina, was introduced as the new pontiff, Pope Francis.
The 76-year-old Jesuit is the 265th successor of Saint Peter and the first Jesuit to be named pope. He was created and proclaimed cardinal by the Blessed John Paul II on Feb. 21, 2001 and oversaw the archdiocese of Buenos Aires for 15 years prior to being elected as the successor of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
“I congratulate the Jesuits, our brothers in religious life, on the occasion of one of their own being elected pope,” said Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM.
Out of the 115 cardinals participating in the conclave, 18 belong to religious orders, and four were Franciscans. Three were Friars Minor: Carlos Amigo Vallejo, OFM, 78, archbishop Emeritus of Seville, Spain; Cláudio Hummes, OFM, 78, archbishop Emeritus of São Paolo and former prefect of the Vatican Congregation of the Clergy; and Wilfrid Fox Napier, OFM, 72, archbishop of Durban, South Africa. One was Capuchin: Sean Patrick O’Malley, OFM Cap., 68, archbishop of Boston.
Cardinal Jorge spent much of his early career teaching literature, psychology and philosophy, according to a March 3 National Catholic Reporter article. From 1973 to 1979 he served as the Jesuit provincial in Argentina and in 1980 became the rector of the seminary from which he had graduated.
“Pope Francis brings a great wealth of pastoral experience to his new task as chief shepherd of the People of God,” said Provincial Vicar Dominic Monti, OFM.
Seeing a Jesuit elected pope had significant meaning for Christopher VanHaight, OFM, pastor of St. Bonaventure Church in Paterson, N.J.
“When Pope Francis asked people to pray for him before he blessed them, I got teary-eyed,” Christopher said. “I graduated from a Jesuit college, was in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, and was born on July 31st, the feast day of St. Ignatius, founder of the Jesuit order. And I am a Franciscan, so I’m pretty happy right now.”
Pope Francis, the son of Italian immigrants, is also the first pontiff from South America, something that Francis DiSpigno, OFM, believes will strengthen his papacy.
“I think it’s a great selection to have this non-European pope come from South America, where there is a vibrant Catholic population,” said Francis DiSpigno, executive director of university ministries at St. Bonaventure University in Western New York. “He’ll bring a new and fresh world view to the papacy.”
Media personalities have already begun to speculate what kind of leader Pope Francis will be. He has supported the social justice ethos of Latin American Catholicism, including “a robust defense of the poor,” according to theNational Catholic Reporter article. He has also been “unwaveringly orthodox on matters of sexual morality, staunchly opposing abortion, same-sex marriage, and contraception” while also having a “deep compassion for the victims of HIV-AIDS.”
“As a Provincial in the Franciscan Order, I am proud of the impact that Francis of Assisi has had in the history of the Church,” said John. “St. Francis challenged the clericalism in the Church, he led by his example of humility, and he reached out to people of all faiths, economic classes and backgrounds. Everything that I hear so far about our new pope tells me that he is committed to do the same.”
The name Pope Francis chose is sparking interest around the Franciscan world.
“I believe his choice of name reflects his attention to the poor and marginalized of society, for which St. Francis of Assisi was known, and his sense of the church’s evangelizing mission,” Dominic said.
— Maria Hayes is communications coordinator of Holy Name Province.