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Habemas papam Franciscum

First non-European pope in 1,200 years named after St. Francis

For only the second time in history, the Roman Catholic Church is headed by a man not from Europe. Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected pope on Wednesday, the second day of a papal conclave. Naming himself after Francis of Assisi, the new pope is also the first Jesuit to be elected to the Throne of St. Peter.

Pope Francis I gave a brief speech from a Vatican balcony, and asked those gathered there to pray for him during a long moment of silence.

"It seems to me that my brothers and cardinals have chosen one who is from far away, but here I am," Francis said.

Francis' election marks the first time a non-European was chosen as pope since the election of Syrian-born Gregory III in 731.

Francis is the first pope to choose to be named after St. Francis of Assisi, one of the most revered figures in Catholic history. Known for caring for the poor, St. Francis was a religious reformer and remains a symbol of simplicity and humility within the church.

The 76-year-old pope, the archbishop of Buenos Aires, was elevated as a cardinal in 2011. In becoming the 266th head of the church, he succeeds Benedict XVI, one of the few popes to ever retire rather than die in office.

The Argentine has been criticized for conservative positions on abortion and gay marriage. He was charged in 2005 with conspiring with Argentina's military junta in 1976, during that country's "Dirty War," to kidnap two priests who backed an overthrow of the dictatorship. That charge came as Bergoglio was rumored to be a contender during the last papal conclave. The allegations were denied, and no evidence was presented to link Bergoglio with the crime.

From Wikipedia:

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As Cardinal, Bergoglio became known for personal humility, doctrinal conservatism and a commitment to social justice. A simple lifestyle has contributed to his reputation for humility. He lives in a small apartment, rather than in the palatial bishop's residence. He gave up his chauffeured limousine in favor of public transportation, and he reportedly cooks his own meals.


Bergoglio is an accomplished theologian who distanced himself from liberation theology early in his career. He is thought to be close to Comunione e Liberazione, a conservative lay movement.


Rather than articulating positions on matters of political economy, Bergoglio prefers to emphasize spirituality and holiness, believing that this will naturally lead to greater concern for the suffering of the poor. He has, however, preached a message of compassion towards the poor, voiced support for social programs, and publicly challenged free-market policies.

Correction: An earlier version of this story overlooked Gregory III as the only other pope who was not European.

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Latest comments on this storyRead all 7 »

Mar 13, 2013, 8:52 pm
-0 +0

Well, when I said “younger guy”, I wasn’t expecting them to pick a guy in his 30’s or something. But 50’s, early 60’s is reasonable, and I think would satisfy biblical orders.

To me, it makes zero sense to bestow a lifetime appointment on someone who doesn’t have very much sand left in the hourglass.

Mar 13, 2013, 5:16 pm
-0 +0

Wasn’t referring to skin color Bret, more so non-European based culture.

Concur on the “bible thing.”  It has a significant bit of emphasis on age too.  So there goes your younger guy.

Mar 13, 2013, 4:04 pm
-0 +1

I hate the distortion and overuse of the descriptor “minority” anyway when referencing skin color, but it really can’t be applicable in this case. The Catholic Church is a worldwide deal, yes? Probably more in that religion than any other. Hence, their population is the world’s population, so the skin color card really can’t play because their pool to choose from is global.

If you want to play the gender card, that’s another issue where you’d actually have a point. But, the whole bible thing says that women are subservient to men, so I wouldn’t get your hopes up on ever seeing a female Pope…or Cardinal or Bishop for that matter.

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Gobierno de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires/Flickr

Then-Cardinal Bergoglio in a 2012 photo.