Pope Francis (1936- ), the first pope of that name, is the new head of the Catholic Church. He was Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, SJ, archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina from 1999 to 2013. He is the first pope from the Americas, where nearly half of all Catholics live, the first from the global South, and the first Jesuit. He is named after St Francis of Assisi, whom God told to rebuild the Church.
In 2010 there were 1.2 billion Catholics. Where they lived by continent:
- 28% South America
- 26% Europe
- 20% North America
- 13% Africa
- 12% Asia
- 1% Oceania
Despite this, 53% of the cardinal electors who vote for pope are from Europe. Like it was still 1936 or something.
- The last African pope: Pope Saint Gelasius I, a Berber, in 496
- The last Asian pope: Pope Saint Gregory III, of Syria, in 741
- European popes all the way from 741 to 2013
- Italian popes all the way from 1523 to 1978
Bergoglio is Argentine by birth, Italian by blood - his father and his mother’s family come from Italy.
In 1958 he joined the Jesuits, a powerful religious order of priests in the Church, strong on teaching and missionary work. They take a vow of poverty, chastity and obedience. They run universities and tend to be left-leaning.
In the 1960s Bergoglio taught high school and became a priest.
In the 1970s he studied theology and became a professor.
From 1973 to 1979 he was the head Jesuit in Argentina. He opposed the move of Jesuit priests into liberation theology, which seeks to free the poor from injustice.
In 1976 Jorge Videla overthrew Isabel Perón. He cracked down on the left. Thousands disappeared, many never to be seen again. People were tortured, thrown from planes, all of that. Two bishops were killed. So were many priests. The Church remained silent.
Among the disappeared were two Jesuit priests who worked among the poor, Orlando Yorio and Franz Jalics. They were secretly thrown into prison and tortured. Yorio says Bergoglio could have stopped the government but chose not to. Bergoglio says he worked behind the scenes to get them freed – which they were five months later.
Some say Bergoglio worked with the government, that he even kept prisoners at his holiday home on the island of El Silencio. Bergoglio says he helped to hide people from the government. Either way, he remained silent till years later when he apologized for the Church not taking a stronger stand against the government in that terrible time.
Later as archbishop he opposed the government on abortion, euthanasia, free contraception and same-sex marriage.
In 2001 Pope John Paul II made him a cardinal, one of the top men in the Church. He and Bergoglio have pretty much the same views.
In 2005 when John Paul II died, the voting for the new pope was deadlocked between Bergoglio and Cardinal Ratzinger. Bergoglio gave way and Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI.
Pope Francis is 76 and is missing part of his lung - removed in 1969 to save his life. When Ratzinger became pope he was 78 and had a pacemaker.