VATICAN CITY — White smoke rose from the Sistine Chapel’s chimney signifying the selection of the 266th pope on March 13. With no clear contenders for pope as 115 Cardinals entered the conclave the two days before, the announcement was a pleasant surprise to everyone waiting for their decision.
Within the hour of the smoke signal, Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran, the senior cardinal deacon of the Church, stepped onto the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica and announced in Latin: “We have a Pope! The most eminent and most reverend Lord, Lord Jorge Mario Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church Bergoglio. Who takes for himself the name of Francis.”
Pope Francis, 76, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, is the son of Italian immigrants. Born in the New World city of Buenos Aires, he has served as the archbishop of his birthplace since 1998. He is the first pope from Latin America and the first Jesuit ever to be elected pope. He is also the first non-European leader of the church in more than 1,000 years, and the first to use the name Francis in the church’s 2,000-year history.
About 40 percent of the world’s Catholic population is centered in Latin America
Having assumed the title of pope inside the Sistine Chapel, Pope Francis came out onto the balcony wearing a simple cross and white papal robes. He started off with asking the crowd to pray for him. He concluded the ceremony with the words: “good night, and have a good rest.”
As he takes office, he faces many different concerns, such as dealing with the abuse scandals and continuing Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s goal to make the Vatican bank more transparent with international standards. He also faces the challenge of bringing people back to the church, as his predecessor did so in Europe. His conservative views on abortion, gay marriage and other issues have been scrutinized in the past and will probably be dissected during his papacy.
Bergoglio is known to lead a very simple lifestyle. Instead of a car that is provided for him, he uses public transport. He also visits the poor, lives in a simple apartment and cooks his own meals. To many in Buenos Aires, he is known as “Father Jorge.” His lifestyle might also point to his reasons for choosing Francis as his papal name, perhaps as a sign of respect to St. Francis of Assisi the founder of the Franciscan Order and to signify a new beginning for the faith.
A wide selection of cardinals from Asia, Africa and the Americas were present for the conclave, but there was also uncertainty as to whom the papacy would go. There were talks about serious contenders being involved in social media, as they would be better ‘equipped’ to address today’s problems. Out of the 115 cardinals present for the conclave, 17 of them have twitter accounts.
The pope’s official twitter account @pointifex was also reactivated within the hour of the announcement. The pope tweeted on March 17 “Dear friends, I thank you from my heart and I ask you to continue to pray for me.”