Pope Francis I: The Humble Pope Given to Us by God


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Myself .

By T.V. Antony Raj

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In the Catholic Church to choose a new pope, it is mandatory for every cardinal under the age of 80 to travel to Rome to take part in the secret conclave election process which begins with a mass celebrated in St. Peter’s Basilica followed by a procession to the Sistine Chapel.

Before the cardinals arrive, the Sistine Chapel goes through a comprehensive check or unauthorized microphones, recording or other communication devices. The phones of the cardinals are also blocked to prevent them from communicating with anyone about the election.

At the outset, the 115 cardinals participating in the election process this year took an oath of secrecy. After that the first voting process began. Each cardinal could cast one vote, except for himself. A candidate for the papacy must receive two-third of the total votes. This voting process continues with four voting sessions – two in the morning and two in the afternoon – for five consecutive days, or until the pope is chosen.

At the end of each voting session the smoke from the burned ballots billowing out of the chimney on the roof of the Sistine Chapel reveals to the public the outcome of that voting session: black smoke to mean no consensus reached, and white smoke to announce the successful choice of a new Pope.

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White smoke - Habemus Papam! / We have a Pope!
White smoke – Habemus Papam! / We have a Pope!

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On Wednesday, March 13, 2013, white smoke appeared out of the Sistine Chapel chimney shortly after 7 pm Rome time. Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the senior cardinal in the order of the deacons, appeared on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica and announced in Latin: “Habemus Papam!” (English: “We have a pope!”). Cardinal Tauran then revealed the pontiff’s birth name and the name he has chosen for himself as pope.

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His Holiness, Pope Francis I
His Holiness, Pope Francis I

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Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, 76, archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, a Jesuit, is the new pope of the Catholic Church. He has taken the name of Francis.

Vatican deputy spokesman Thomas Rosica said the new pontiff had chosen the name in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi, and had done so because the he was a lover of the poor. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, a participant in the proceedings of the Conclave, confirmed that the new pope said, “I choose the name, Francis, in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi”.

This is the first time in papal history the name “Francis” used by a Pope, and the first time a serving Pope held a name unused by a predecessor since the brief reign of Pope Lando (also known as Landus) from July or August 913 until his death in February or March 914.

His Holiness, Pope Francis I, (though technically he can’t be called the first until there is a second pope Francis) is the first pope from the Americas. South America’s Catholics make up an estimated 40%, the largest regional following, of the 1.2 billion strong Catholic Church worldwide. He is a non-European.

“Non-European” can have two different meanings: ethnicity, and nationality. As in the U.S., many citizens of Argentina are descendants of immigrants, and most of them are of European descent. Pope Francis I, former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio is an Argentine citizen. He was born in Buenos Aires to Italian immigrants of Piedmontese origin and hence is ethnically Italian. He grew up in the Argentine capital. His father, Mario José Bergoglio was a railway worker, and his mother Regina María Sivori, a housewife.

The Pope’s decision to pick the name “Francis” shows his simplicity and humility. His personal style is the antithesis of Vatican splendor. He believes in social justice and living a simple lifestyle. Though he was the Cardinal of the Catholic Church in Argentina, he passed on the right to have a chauffeured limousine and instead used public transport. He lived in a small apartment eschewing a formal bishop’s palace and reportedly cooked his own meals.

Here are some points to ponder:

  • He graduated from a technical secondary school as a chemical technician.
  • He decided to become a priest at the age of 21.
  • He speaks Italian fluently, as well as Latin, Spanish, German, French, and English.
  • He is the first Jesuit Pope.
  • He has lived for more than 50 years with one functioning lung. His other lung was removed as a young man due to infection.
  • He washed and kissed the feet of Aids patients in a hospice in 2001.
  • He has opposed the legislation that allows same-sex marriage introduced in 2010 by the Argentine Government.
  • He has served on the Congregation of Clergy, Congregation of Divine Worship and Sacraments, Congregation of Institutes of Consecrated Life, the Congregation of Societies of Apostolic Life, and the Commission on Latin American and the Family Council.
  • He requested Argentinians not to spend money on travel to Rome to celebrate if he was appointed. He asked them to give that amount to the poor instead.
  • He is a conservative on Church doctrine. However, he has criticized priests who refuse to baptize children born to single mothers.
  • He opposes vulgar ideas such as gay marriage unlike some other heads of states.
  • He believes that condoms “can be permitted” to prevent sex-transmitted infection.
  • He once called abortion a “death sentence” for unborn children, during a speech on October 2, 2007. He said: “we are not in agreement with the death penalty, but in Argentina we have the death penalty.  A child conceived by the rape of a mentally ill or retarded woman can be condemned to death.”
The shoes of Pope Francis
The shoes of Pope Francis
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