The new Pope is starting his first day in office after the choice of the conclave of cardinals in the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel produced a string of firsts. Pope Francis I is the first from outside Europe in some 1,300 years, the first Latin American Pope, the first Jesuit to be elevated to the position and the first to take the name Francis.
Formerly Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio and Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, Pope Francis I began his first address to the crowds in St Peter’s Square a little over an after the white smoke that indicates a pope has been chosen was first seen coming from the Sistine Chapel. After saying good evening, he made an immediate reference to the choice of a pope from outside Europe, saying it seemed that in choosing a new bishop of Rome, the Cardinals had “gone to nearly the end of the world.”
Born in Argentina of Italian descent, most commentators agreed the choice was a surprise. Much has been made of the simplicity and humility of new Pope’s life. He has apparently shunned palaces, living instead in an apartment and cooking from himself, as well as taking public transport to work. Although commentators consider him something of a conservative in many of his views, he is widely seen as strong on social justice and his choice of Francis for his name, which reminds of St Francis of Assisi, seems to reflect this position.
St Peter’s Square soon filled after the appearance of the white smoke from the Sistine Chapel. Well over 150,000 people were estimated to have turned out to see the new Pope and the crowds stretched up the road leading to the square. Flags from all around the world were visible in the crowd, including a large Romanian flag. A group of Romanians theology students was reportedly among the crowds welcoming Pope Francis I.
The new Pope is said to face a “challenging” papacy, with the Catholic Church involved in scandals and many saying its ruling authorities are in urgent need of reform. Pope Francis I is now the bishop of Rome, the ruler of the Vatican and the Catholic Church and the spiritual leader of some 1.2 billion Catholics around the world, around 40 percent of whom are in Latin America.
Liam Lever, firstname.lastname@example.org
photo source: vatican.va