Who is Pope Francis?
Pope Francis, born Jorge Mario Bergoglio on 17 December 1936, is the 266th pope of the Catholic Church, a position also holding the roles of Sovereign of Vatican City and the Bishop of Rome.
Born in Buenos Aires as the son of Italian parents, Bergoglio worked briefly as a chemical technician before entering seminary. He was ordained a priest in 1969. From 1973 to 1979 he was Argentina's Provincial superior of the Society of Jesus, became Archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1998, and cardinal in 2001.
Following the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, on 13 March 2013 the papal conclave elected Bergoglio, who chose the papal name Francis in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi. Francis is the first Jesuit pope, the first pope from the Americas, and the first from the Southern Hemisphere.
Throughout his life, both as an individual and a religious leader, he has been noted for his humility, his concern for the poor, and his commitment to dialogue as a way to build bridges between people of all backgrounds, beliefs, and faiths. Since his election to the papacy, he has displayed a simpler and less formal approach to the office, choosing to reside in the Vatican guesthouse rather than the papal residence.
Jorge Mario Bergoglio was born in Flores, a barrio of Buenos Aires. He was the eldest of five children of Mario José Bergoglio, an Italian immigrant railway worker born in Portacomaro (Province of Asti) in Italy's Piedmont region, and his wife Regina María Sívori, a housewife born in Buenos Aires to a family of northern Italian (Piedmontese-Genoese) origin.
Bergoglio's sister María Elena told reporters decades later that their father often said that "the advent of fascism was the reason that really pushed him to leave" Italy. She is the pope's only living sibling.
Bergoglio has been a supporter of the San Lorenzo de Almagro football club since his childhood. Bergoglio is also a fan of the films of Tita Merello and of neorealism and of tango dancing, with an "intense fondness" for the traditional music of Argentina and Uruguay known as the milonga.
As a sixth-grade pupil, Bergoglio attended Wilfrid Barón de los Santos Ángeles, a school of the Salesians of Don Bosco, in Ramos Mejía in Greater Buenos Aires. He attended the technical secondary school Escuela Nacional de Educación Técnica N° 27 Hipólito Yrigoyen and graduated with a chemical technician's diploma. He worked for a few years in that capacity in the foods section at Hickethier-Bachmann Laboratory.
In the only known health crisis of his youth, at the age of 21 he suffered from life-threatening pneumonia and three cysts and had part of a lung removed shortly afterwards.
Bergoglio studied at the archdiocesan seminary, Inmaculada Concepción Seminary, in Villa Devoto, Buenos Aires City and, after three years, entered the Society of Jesus as a novice on 11 March 1958. Bergoglio has said that as a young seminarian, he "was dazzled by a girl I met at an uncle's wedding", so much so that he "could not pray for over a week" because he could not help thinking of her, and so he "had to rethink what I was doing".
As a Jesuit novice he studied humanities in Santiago, Chile. At the conclusion of his noviciate in the Society of Jesus, Bergoglio officially became a Jesuit on 12 March 1960, when he made the religious profession of the initial, temporary vows of a member of the order.
In 1960, Bergoglio obtained a licentiate in philosophy from the Colegio Máximo San José in San Miguel, Buenos Aires Province; in 1964 and 1965, he taught literature and psychology at the Colegio de la Inmaculada, a high school in the Province of Santa Fe, Argentina, and in 1966 he taught the same courses at the Colegio del Salvador in Buenos Aires City.
In 1967, Bergoglio finished his theological studies and was ordained to the priesthood on 13 December 1969, by Archbishop Ramón José Castellano. He attended the Facultades de Filosofía y Teología de San Miguel (Philosophical and Theological Faculty of San Miguel), a seminary in San Miguel. He served as the master of novices for the province there and became a professor of theology.
Bergoglio completed his final stage of spiritual formation as a Jesuit, tertianship, at Alcalá de Henares, Spain, and took his perpetual vows in the Society of Jesus on 22 April 1973. He was named Provincial Superior of the Society of Jesus in Argentina on 31 July 1973 and served until 1979.
After the completion of his term of office, in 1980 he was named the rector of the Philosophical and Theological Faculty of San Miguel in San Miguel, and served in that capacity until 1986. He spent several months at the Sankt Georgen Graduate School of Philosophy and Theology in Frankfurt, Germany, while considering possible dissertation topics, before returning to Argentina to serve as a confessor and spiritual director to the Jesuit community in Córdoba.
In Germany he saw the painting Mary Untier of Knots in Augsburg and brought a copy of the painting to Argentina where it has become an important Marian devotion.
As a student at the Salesian school, Bergoglio was mentored by Ukrainian Greek Catholic priest Stefan Czmil. Bergoglio often rose hours before his classmates to celebrate Mass with Czmil.
Bergoglio was named Auxiliary Bishop of Buenos Aires in 1992 and was ordained on 27 June 1992 as Titular Bishop of Auca, with Cardinal Antonio Quarracino, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, serving as principal consecrator. On 3 June 1997, Bergoglio was appointed Coadjutor Archbishop of Buenos Aires with right of automatic succession. He chose as his episcopal motto Miserando atque eligendo. It is drawn from Bede's homily on Matthew 9:9–13: "because he saw him through the eyes of mercy and chose him".
Upon Quarracino's death on 28 February 1998, Bergoglio became Metropolitan Archbishop of Buenos Aires. In that role, Bergoglio created new parishes and restructured the archdiocese administrative offices, led pro-life initiatives, and created a commission on divorces. One of Bergoglio's major initiatives as archbishop was to increase the Church's presence in the slums of Buenos Aires. Under his leadership the number of priests assigned to work in the slums doubled.
Early in his time as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Bergoglio sold off the Archdiocese's shares in multiple banks and transferred its accounts to those of a normal customer in international banks.
On 6 November 1998, while remaining Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he was named ordinary for those Eastern Catholics in Argentina who lacked a prelate of their own rite. Archbishop Shevchuk has said that Bergoglio understands the liturgy, rites, and spirituality of his Greek Catholic Church and always "took care of our Church in Argentina" as ordinary for Eastern Catholics during his time as Archbishop of Buenos Aires.
In 2000, Bergoglio was the only church official to reconcile with Jerónimo Podestá, a former bishop who had been defrocked as a priest after opposing the military dictatorship in 1972, and he defended Podestá's wife from Vatican attacks on their marriage. That same year, Bergoglio said the Argentine Catholic Church needed "to put on garments of public penance for the sins committed during the years of the dictatorship" in the 1970s, the years known as the Dirty War.
Bergoglio made it his custom to celebrate the Holy Thursday ritual washing of feet in "a jail, a hospital, a home for the elderly or with poor people". One year he washed the feet of newborn children and pregnant women. In his first Holy Thursday as pope, Francis continued this custom, visiting a jail in Rome where he washed the feet of twelve inmates aged 14 to 21, among them two women; the first woman was a Serbian Muslim, the second was an Italian Catholic.
In 2007, just two days after Benedict XVI issued new rules for using the liturgical forms that preceded the Second Vatican Council, Cardinal Bergoglio was one of the first bishops in the world to respond by instituting a Tridentine Mass in Buenos Aires. It was celebrated weekly.
On 8 November 2005, Bergoglio was elected president of the Argentine Episcopal Conference for a three-year term (2005–08). He was reelected to another three-year term on 11 November 2008. He remained a member of that Commission's permanent governing body, president of its committee for the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina, and a member of its liturgy committee for the care of shrines.
While head of the Argentine Catholic bishops' conference, Bergoglio issued a collective apology for his church's failure to protect people from the Junta during the Dirty War.
When he turned 75 in December 2011, Bergoglio submitted his resignation as Archbishop of Buenos Aires to Pope Benedict XVI as required by Canon Law.
At the consistory of 21 February 2001, Archbishop Bergoglio was created a cardinal by Pope John Paul II with the title of cardinal-priest of San Roberto Bellarmino, a church served by Jesuits and named for one. When he traveled to Rome for the ceremony, he and his sister María Elena visited the village in northern Italy where their father was born.
As cardinal, Bergoglio was appointed to five administrative positions in the Roman Curia. He was 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.
Later that year, when Cardinal Edward Egan returned to New York following the September 11 attacks, Bergoglio replaced him as relator (recording secretary) in the Synod of Bishops, and, according to the Catholic Herald, created "a favourable impression as a man open to communion and dialogue".
Cardinal Bergoglio became known for personal humility, doctrinal conservatism and a commitment to social justice. A simple lifestyle contributed to his reputation for humility. He lived in a small apartment, rather than in the elegant bishop's residence in the suburb of Olivos. He took public transportation and cooked his own meals. He limited his time in Rome to "lightning visits".
On the death of Pope John Paul II, Bergoglio attended his funeral. He was considered one of the papabile cardinals. He participated as a cardinal elector in the 2005 papal conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI. In the National Catholic Reporter John L. Allen, Jr. reported that Bergoglio was a frontrunner in the 2005 Conclave.
In September 2005, the Italian magazine Limes published claims that Bergoglio had been the runner-up and main challenger to Cardinal Ratzinger at that conclave and that he had received 40 votes in the third ballot, but fell back to 26 at the fourth and decisive ballot. The claims were based on a diary purportedly belonging to an anonymous cardinal who had been present at the conclave.
According to Italian journalist Andrea Tornielli, this number of votes had no precedents for a Latin American papabile. La Stampa reported that Bergoglio was in close contention with Ratzinger during the election, until he made an emotional plea that the cardinals should not vote for him. According to Tornielli, Bergoglio made this request to prevent the conclave from delaying too much in the election of a pope.
As a cardinal, Bergoglio was associated with Communion and Liberation, a Catholic evangelical lay movement of the type known as associations of the faithful. He has sometimes made appearances at the annual gathering known as the Rimini Meeting held during the late summer months in Italy.
In 2005, Cardinal Bergoglio authorized the request for beatification—the first step towards sainthood—for six members of the Pallottine community murdered in 1976. At the same time, Bergoglio ordered an investigation into the murders themselves, which had been widely blamed on the military regime that ruled Argentina from 1976 to 1983.
Bergoglio was the subject of allegations regarding the kidnapping of two Jesuit priests during Argentina's "Dirty War". Bergoglio feared for the priests' safety and had tried to change their work prior to their arrest; however, contrary to reports, he never tried to throw them out of the Jesuit order. In 2005, a human rights lawyer filed a criminal complaint against Bergoglio, as superior in the Society of Jesus of Argentina, accusing him of involvement in the Navy's kidnapping of the two priests in May 1976.
The lawyer's complaint did not specify the nature of Bergoglio's alleged involvement, and Bergoglio's spokesman flatly denied the allegations. The lawsuit was ultimately dismissed. The priests, Orlando Yorio and Franz Jalics, had been tortured, but found alive five months later, drugged and semi-naked. Yorio accused Bergoglio of effectively handing them over to the death squads by declining to tell the regime that he endorsed their work. Yorio (who died in 2000) said in a 1999 interview that he believed that Bergoglio did nothing "to free us, in fact just the opposite".
Jalics initially refused to discuss the complaint after moving into seclusion in a German monastery. However, two days after the election of Pope Francis, Jalics issued a statement confirming the kidnapping and attributing the cause to a former lay colleague who became a guerrilla, was captured, and named Yorio and Jalics when interrogated.
The following week, Jalics issued a second, clarifying statement: "It is wrong to assert that our capture took place at the initiative of Father Bergoglio ... the fact is, Orlando Yorio and I were not denounced by Father Bergoglio."
Bergoglio told his authorized biographer, Sergio Rubin, that after the priests' imprisonment he worked behind the scenes for their release; Bergoglio's intercession with dictator Jorge Rafael Videla on their behalf may have saved their lives. In 2010, Bergoglio told Sergio Rubin that he had often sheltered people from the dictatorship on church property, and once gave his own identity papers to a man who looked like him, so he could flee Argentina.
The interview with Rubin, reflected in the biography El jesuita, is the only time Bergoglio has spoken to the press about those events. Alicia Oliveira, a former Argentine Judge, has also reported that Bergoglio helped people flee Argentina during the military regime. Since Francis became Pope, Gonzalo Mosca and José Caravias have related to journalists accounts of how Bergoglio helped them flee the Argentine dictatorship.
Oliveira described the future Pope as "anguished" and "very critical of the dictatorship" during the "Dirty War". Oliveira met with him at the time and urged Bergoglio to speak out — he told her that "he couldn't. That it wasn't an easy thing to do."Artist and human rights activist Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1980, said: "Perhaps he didn't have the courage of other priests, but he never collaborated with the dictatorship ... Bergoglio was no accomplice of the dictatorship."
Graciela Fernández Meijide, member of the Permanent Assembly for Human Rights, also said that there was no proof linking Bergoglio with the dictatorship. She told Clarín: "There is no information and Justice couldn't prove it. I was in the APDH during all the dictatorship years and I received hundreds of testimonies. Bergoglio was never mentioned. It was the same in the CONADEP. Nobody mentioned him as instigator or as anything." Ricardo Lorenzetti, President of the Argentine Supreme Court, also has said that Bergoglio is "completely innocent" of the accusations.
Relationship with de la Rúa
Jorge Bergoglio became a noteworthy political figure when he became head of the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires in 1998. Fernando de la Rúa replaced Carlos Menem as president of Argentina the following year. As an archbishop, Bergoglio celebrated the annual Mass at the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral on the First National Government holiday, May 25. In 2000, Bergoglio criticized the perceived apathy of society. During police repression of the riots of December 2001 he contacted the Ministry of the Interior and asked that the police distinguish rioters engaged in acts of vandalism from peaceful protesters.
Relationship with the Kirchners
When Bergoglio celebrated Mass at the Cathedral for the 2004 First National Government holiday, President Néstor Kirchner attended and heard Bergoglio request more political dialogue, reject intolerance, and criticize exhibitionism and strident announcements. Kirchner celebrated the national day elsewhere the following year and the Mass in the Cathedral was suspended.
Kirchner considered Bergoglio as a political rival to the day he died in October 2010. Bergoglio's relations with Kirchner's widow and successor, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, have been similarly tense. In 2008, Bergoglio called for national reconciliation during disturbances in the country's agricultural regions, which the government interpreted as a support for anti-government demonstrators. The campaign to enact same-sex marriage legislation was a particularly tense period in their relations.
In 2006, Bergoglio publicly opposed an attempt by the Argentine government to legalize some cases of abortion. In 2007, after the government helped a retarded woman have an abortion, Bergolio said that "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."
Kirchner said in response that "the diagnosis of the Church in relation to social problems in Argentina is correct, but to mix that with abortion and euthanasia is at least a clear example of ideological malfeasance."
On the day before his inauguration as pope, Bergoglio, now Francis, had a private meeting with Kirchner. They exchanged gifts and lunched together. This was the new pope's first meeting with a head of state, and there was speculation that the two were mending their relations.
Bergoglio has written about his commitment to open and respectful interfaith dialogue as a way for all parties engaged in that dialogue to learn from one another.
Religious leaders in Buenos Aires have stated that it was Bergoglio who "opened up the Cathedral in Buenos Aires for interfaith ceremonies". For example, in November 2012 he brought "leaders of the Jewish, Muslim, evangelical, and Orthodox Christian faiths" together in the Cathedral to pray for peace in the Middle East. Leaders quoted in a 2013 Associated Press article said that Bergoglio has a "very deep capacity for dialogue with other religions", and considers "healing divisions between religions a major part of the Catholic Church's mission".
Shortly after his election, the pope called for more interreligious dialogue as a way of "building bridges" and establishing “true links of friendship between all people". He added that it was crucial “to intensify outreach to nonbelievers, so that the differences which divide and hurt us may never prevail". He said that his title of "pontiff" means "builder of bridges", and that it was his wish that "the dialogue between us should help to build bridges connecting all people, in such a way that everyone can see in the other not an enemy, not a rival, but a brother or sister to be welcomed and embraced."
Speaking to journalists and media employees on 16 March 2013, Pope Francis said he would bless them silently, "Given that many of you do not belong to the Catholic Church, and others are not believers".
In his papal address on 20 March, he said the "attempt to eliminate God and the Divine from the horizon of humanity" resulted in violence, but described as well his feelings about nonbelievers: “[W]e also sense our closeness to all those men and women who, although not identifying themselves as followers of any religious tradition, are nonetheless searching for truth, goodness and beauty, the truth, goodness and beauty of God. They are our valued allies in the commitment to defending human dignity, in building a peaceful coexistence between peoples and in safeguarding and caring for creation.”
Some atheists expressed hope that Francis would prove to be progressive on issues like poverty and social inequality, while others were more skeptical that he would be "interested in a partnership of equals".
Francis believes atheists who do good are good people and he appeared to say in May 2013 that all who do good can be redeemed through Jesus, including atheists. Francis stated that God “has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! (…) Even the atheists,” Everyone!”
Later Thomas Rosica stated non-Catholics who ”know” the Roman Catholic Church can only get to Heaven by converting to Catholicism. Outspoken atheist, Richard Dawkins commented “Atheists go to heaven? Nope. Sorry world, infallible pope got it wrong. Vatican steps in with alacrity.” Author, Neale Donald Walsch stated, “it was regrettable that the hidden hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church chose to officially retract the recent statement on eternal damnation bravely made by its new leader, Pope Francis.”
Hendrik Hertzberg suggests in the The New Yorker magazine Rosica used weasel words and left imprecise how much a non-Catholic needs to know about Catholicism before according to Church doctrine that person is required to enter the Church or be damned. Further Rosica published his statement in Toronto through Zenit News Agency rather than through the Vatican or the Holy See. Hertzberg claims imprecision is deliberate and speculates in the Catholic Church there may be major internal disagreement between supporters and opponents of Vatican II.
Eastern Orthodox Church
Bergoglio is recognized for his efforts "to further close the nearly 1,000-year estrangement with the Orthodox Churches". Antoni Sevruk, rector of the Russian Orthodox Church of Saint Catherine the Great Martyr in Rome, said that Bergoglio "often visited Orthodox services in the Russian Orthodox Annunciation Cathedral in Buenos Aires" and is known as an advocate on behalf the Orthodox Church in dealing with Argentina's government.
Bergoglio's positive relationship with the Eastern Orthodox Churches is reflected in the fact that Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople attended his installation. This is the first time since the Great Schism of 1054 that the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, a position considered first among equals in the Eastern Orthodox Church organization, has attended a papal installation.
Orthodox leaders state that Bartholomew's decision to attend the ceremony shows that the relationship between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches is a priority of his, but they also note that Francis's "well-documented work for social justice and his insistence that globalization is detrimental to the poor" may have created a "renewed opportunity" for the two Church communities to "work collectively on issues of mutual concern".
Gregory Venables, Anglican Bishop of Argentina, said that Cardinal Bergoglio had told him very clearly that the Personal Ordinariate(s) (the branch of the Catholic Church set up for defecting Anglicans) was "quite unnecessary", and that the Catholic Church needed Anglicans as Anglicans. A spokesman for the Ordinariate said the words were those of Venables, not the Pope.
Mark Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) greeted the news of Bergoglio's election with a public statement that praised his work with Lutherans in Argentina.
Evangelical leaders including Argentine Luis Palau, who moved to the US in his twenties, have welcomed the news of Bergoglio's election as Pope based on his relations with Evangelical Protestants, noting that Bergoglio's financial manager for the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires was an Evangelical Christian whom Bergoglio refers to as a friend. Palau recounts how Bergoglio would not only relax and "drink mate" with that friend, but would also read the Bible and pray with him, based on what Bergoglio called a relationship of friendship and trust.
Palau describes Bergoglio's approach to relationships with Evangelicals as one of "building bridges and showing respect, knowing the differences, but majoring on what we can agree on: on the divinity of Jesus, his virgin birth, his resurrection, the second coming." As a result of Bergoglio's election, Palau predicts that "tensions will be eased."
Juan Pablo Bongarrá, president of the Argentine Bible Society, recounts that Bergoglio not only met with Evangelicals, and prayed with them—but he also asked them to pray for him. Bongarrá notes that Bergoglio would frequently end a conversation with the request, "Pastor, pray for me."
Additionally, Bongarrá tells the story of a weekly worship meeting of charismatic pastors in Buenos Aires, which Bergoglio attended: "He mounted the platform and called for pastors to pray for him. He knelt in front of nearly 6,000 people, and [the Protestant leaders there] laid hands and prayed."
Other Evangelical leaders agree that Bergoglio's relationships in Argentina make him "situated to better understand Protestantism". Noting that the divide between Catholicism and Protestantism is often present among members of the same families in Argentina, and is therefore an extremely important human issue, "Francis could set the tone for more compassionate conversations among families about the differences between Protestantism and Catholicism."
Bergoglio has close ties to the Jewish community of Argentina, and attended Rosh Hashanah (Jewish new year) services in 2007 at a synagogue in Buenos Aires. Bergoglio told the Jewish congregation during his visit that he went to the synagogue to examine his heart, "like a pilgrim, together with you, my elder brothers". After the 1994 AMIA bombing of a Jewish Community Center there that killed 85 people, Bergoglio was the first public figure to sign a petition condemning the attack and calling for justice. Jewish community leaders around the world noted that his words and actions "showed solidarity with the Jewish community" in the aftermath of this attack.
A former head of the World Jewish Congress, Israel Singer, reported that he worked with Bergoglio in the early 2000s, distributing aid to the poor as part of a joint Jewish-Catholic program called "Tzedaká". Singer noted that he was impressed with Bergoglio's modesty, remembering that "if everyone sat in chairs with handles [arms], he would sit in the one without."
Bergoglio also co-hosted a Kristallnacht memorial ceremony at the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral in 2012, and joined a group of clerics from a number of different religions to light candles in a 2012 synagogue ceremony on the occasion of the Jewish festival of Hanukkah.
Abraham Skorka, the rector of the Latin-American Rabbinical Seminary in Buenos Aires, and Bergoglio published their conversations on religious and philosophical subjects as Sobre el cielo y la tierra (On Heaven and Earth). An editorial in Israel's Jerusalem Post notes that "Unlike John Paul II, who as a child had positive memories of the Jews of his native Poland but due to the Holocaust had no Jewish community to interact with in Poland as an adult, Pope Francis has maintained a sustained and very positive relationship with a living, breathing [Jewish] community in Buenos Aires."
One of the pope's first official actions was writing a letter to Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni, the Chief Rabbi of Rome, inviting him to the papal installation and sharing his hope of collaboration between the Catholic and Jewish communities. Addressing representatives of Jewish organizations and communities, Francis said that, "due to our common roots [a] Christian cannot be anti-Semitic!"
Leaders of the Islamic community in Buenos Aires welcomed the news of Bergoglio's election as pope, noting that he "always showed himself as a friend of the Islamic community", and a person whose position is "pro-dialogue". They praised Bergoglio's close ties with the Islamic community and noted his comments when Pope Benedict's 2006 Regensburg lecture was interpreted by many as denigrating Islam.
According to them, Bergoglio immediately distanced himself from Benedict's language and said that statements that create outrage within the Islamic community "will serve to destroy in 20 seconds the careful construction of a relationship with Islam that Pope John Paul II built over the last 20 years.”
Bergoglio visited both a mosque and an Islamic school in Argentina, visits that Sheik Mohsen Ali, the Director for the Diffusion of Islam, called actions that strengthened the relationship between the Catholic and Islamic communities.
Dr. Sumer Noufouri, Secretary General of the Islamic Center of the Argentine Republic (CIRA), added that Bergoglio's past actions make his election as pope a cause within the Islamic community of "joy and expectation of strengthening dialogue between religions". Noufouri said that the relationship between CIRA and Bergoglio over the course of a decade had helped to build up Christian-Muslim dialogue in a way that was "really significant in the history of monotheistic relations in Argentina".
Ahmed el-Tayeb, Grand Imam of al-Azhar and president of Egypt's Al-Azhar University, sent congratulations after the pope's election. Al-Tayeb had "broken off relations with the Vatican" during Benedict XVI's time as pope, so his statement has been recognized as a "sign of openness" for the future. However, his message of congratulations also included the request that "Islam asks for respect from the new pontiff".
Shortly after his election, in a meeting with ambassadors from the 180 countries accredited with the Holy See, Pope Francis called for more interreligious dialogue – "particularly with Islam". He also expressed gratitude that "so many civil and religious leaders from the Islamic world" had attended his installation Mass. An editorial in the Saudi Arabian paper Saudi Gazette strongly welcomed the pope's call for increased interfaith dialogue, stressing that while the pope was "reiterating a position he has always maintained", his public call as pope for increased dialogue with Islam "comes as a whiff of fresh air at a time when much of the Western world is experiencing a nasty outbreak of Islamophobia".
Elected at the age of 76, Francis is reported to be in good health, and his doctors have stated that his missing lung tissue (which was removed in 1957) does not have a significant impact on his health. The only concern would be decreased respiratory reserve if he had a respiratory infection. In the past, one attack of sciatica in 2007 prevented him from attending a consistory and delayed his return to Argentina for several days.
As pope his manner is less formal than that of his predecessors: a style that news coverage has referred to as "no frills," noting that it is "his common touch and accessibility that is proving the greatest inspiration." For example, on the night of his election he took the bus back to his hotel with the cardinals, rather than be driven in the papal car.
The next day he visited Cardinal Jorge María Mejía in the hospital and chatted with patients and staff. At his first media audience, the Friday after his election, the Pope said of Saint Francis of Assisi: "The man who gives us this spirit of peace, the poor man," and he added "How I would like a poor Church, and for the poor".
In March 2013, a new song was dedicated to Francis and released in Brazilian Portuguese, European Portuguese and Italian, titled Come Puoi ("How You Can"). Also in March, Pablo Buera, the mayor of La Plata, Argentina, announced that the city had renamed a section of a street leading up to a local cathedral Papa Francisco. There are already efforts to name other streets after him, as well as a school where he studied as a child.
In addition to his native Spanish, Francis is conversant in Latin (the official language of the Holy See), Italian (the official language of Vatican City and the "everyday language" of the Holy See), German, French, Portuguese, English, Ukrainian, and Piedmontese. He is "most comfortable" in Spanish, but is also "completely fluent" in Italian. As of May 2013 sales of papal souvenirs, a sign of popularity, were up.
Bergoglio was elected pope on 13 March 2013, the second day of the 2013 papal conclave, taking the papal name Francis. Francis was elected on the fifth ballot of the conclave. The Habemus Papam was delivered by Cardinal protodeacon Jean-Louis Tauran. Cardinal Christoph Schönborn later said that Bergoglio was elected following two supernatural signs, one in the conclave and hence confidential, and a Latin American couple of friends of Schönborn who whispered Bergoglio's name in Schönborn's ear; Schönborn commented "if these people say Bergoglio, that’s an indication of the Holy Spirit".
Instead of accepting his cardinals' congratulations while seated on the Papal throne, Francis received them standing, reportedly an immediate sign of a changing approach to formalities at the Vatican. During his first appearance as pontiff on the balcony of Saint Peter's Basilica, he wore a white cassock, not the red, ermine-trimmed mozzetta used by the previous Popes. He also wore the same iron pectoral cross that he had worn as Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires, rather than the gold one worn by his predecessors.
After being elected and choosing his name, his first act was bestowing the Urbi et Orbi blessing to thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square. Before blessing the pilgrims, he asked those in St. Peter's Square to pray for his predecessor, pope emeritus Benedict XVI, and for himself.
At his first audience on 16 March 2013, Francis told journalists that he had chosen the name in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi, and had done so because he was especially concerned for the well-being of the poor.
He explained that, as it was becoming clear during the conclave voting that he would be elected the new bishop of Rome, the Brazilian Cardinal Cláudio Hummes had embraced him and whispered, "Don't forget the poor", which had made Bergoglio think of the saint. Bergoglio had previously expressed his admiration for St. Francis, explaining that “He brought to Christianity an idea of poverty against the luxury, pride, vanity of the civil and ecclesiastical powers of the time. He changed history."
This is the first time that a pope has been named Francis and the first time since Pope Lando's 913–914 reign that a serving pope held a name not used by a predecessor.
Francis also said that some cardinal-electors had jokingly suggested to him that he should choose either "Adrian", since Pope Adrian VI had been a reformer of the church, or "Clement" as "payback" to Pope Clement XIV who had suppressed the Jesuit order.
- "Pope Francis" Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (with minor edits), under GFDL.