Buenos Aires — The new Argentine pope, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, is known to shun the lofty trappings of a cardinal and prefers to be called “Father Jorge” rather than more formal titles like “Cardinal” or “your eminence.”
Pope Francis, as he has chosen to be called, is the Catholic Church’s first non-European pope in hundreds of years—and the first from the Americas. The former archbishop of Buenos Aires, the church’s first Jesuit pope, faces the daunting task of healing divisions in the church hierarchy and stemming the loss of worshipers while tending to 1.2 billion faithful.
The new pope brings ample pastoral experience in Argentina to the job, but it is unclear how much influence he has in the Roman Curia, the administrative body of the Vatican. Pope Francis hasn’t held a senior position in the Curia.
The 76-year-old pope was elected by 115 cardinals on the second day of voting. The church’s 266th pontiff succeeds Pope Benedict XVI, who resigned for health reasons in February.
Born in Buenos Aires, Pope Francis was ordained as a Jesuit priest in 1969. He was appointed as bishop in 1992 and six years later was named archbishop of Buenos Aires. He was named a cardinal by John Paul II in 2001.
People familiar with Pope Francis say he shuns the ostentatious trappings of cardinal. He is known to travel to parishes and churches in a city bus or by subway dressed as an ordinary priest.
In the language of the church in Argentina he is a “pastor, not a prince.”
He has sought an outward-looking church rather than a church that shuts itself up within its places of worship. Pope Francis has been a big supporter of priests who work in the slums, known as “villas” in Argentina, that surround the capital, Buenos Aires.
He hews to typical church views of social issues such as gay marriage, abortion and euthanasia. He deeply opposed gay marriage legislation that was passed into law in 2010 in Argentina.
Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation—the first by a pope in some 600 years—sparked a flurry of discussion over a range of issues, including the management of the Vatican’s bank and the sluggish pace of reforms at the Roman Curia, the administrative body of the Vatican.
Cardinals have also deliberated over the need to revive Roman Catholicism in Europe, its historic home, and the shift of Catholicism’s demographics toward developing countries in Latin America and Africa.