Photo from Creative Commons

Summary points:

  • The election of Pope Francis was made a day after the conclave began. Most conclaves in the past lasted three days or more.
  • Pope Francis is 76 years old. Benedict XVI is 85 years old.
  • Pope Francis is largely conservative; staunchly opposed to abortion and same-sex marriage.

The first Jesuit and South American pope, Pope Francis, formerly Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, of Buenos Aires, Argentina, has been chosen as Benedict XVI’s successor.

“Thank you for your warm acceptance,” he said to the crowd outside of St. Peter’s Basilica.

Entering shortly after an announcement from Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, senior cardinal deacon of the Church, Pope Francis greeted the rousing crowd – and, in a sense, the world – with a smile on his face.

The white smoke signaling the election of a new pope finally appeared a few minutes after 7 p.m. on March 13 in Rome. Pope Francis stepped out approximately an hour and a half later.

There had to be one candidate with two-thirds of majority vote from 115 cardinals who gathered in the Sistine Chapel in order to be chosen as the new pope.

The result came after a short conclave that began yesterday.

According to procedure, the pope had to accept the position, dress in the appropriate attire of white papal vestments, pray with the cardinals and then choose his papal name.

Pope Francis was born on Dec. 17, 1936 and ordained for the Jesuits at the age of 33. The pope chose the name “Francis,” because it pays homage to an Italian saint who renounced wealth and founded the Franciscan order of friars in 1290.

Pope Francis is now 76, nine years younger than Benedict XVI.

Some are worried about the pope’s age. Facebook user Orwell Chris Anthony Andrade wrote on The Mirror‘s Facebook wall: “Happy about the Pope being a Jesuit, but how can a 76-year-old bring the Catholic Church into the 21st century?”

According to a 2005 profile of Pope Francis from The Washington Post, he “opposes abortion and supports celibacy among priests, and he has called for tightening the church’s hierarchical structure to ease internal dissent.” He makes social justice a priority and has “championed social programs and won respect for questioning free-market policies, which he blames for leaving millions of Argentines impoverished.”

Fairfield University President Jeffrey P. von Arx, S.J., believes that the election of the first Latin American pope “marks yet another step in the globalization of Roman Catholicism.”

“Cardinal Bergoglio is by repute a man himself of the utmost simplicity, who abandoned the grand archiepiscopal palace in Buenos Aires for a simple apartment, who takes public transportation and is known to cook for himself,” he wrote to The Mirror.

The president also believes that Pope Francis holds two unique points of views vital to his position; he is an insider and outsider, “someone who knows the Roman Curia and who has command of Italian as he demonstrated today; but also someone who will have the perspective of a place very different from Rome – ‘from the other side of the world,’ as [Pope Francis] said in his address today.

“We can hope that this will position him ideally for the job of renewing the Church’s central administration which will be one of the new pope’s most important tasks.”

People now look to Pope Francis to lead them through the problems of Church, which range from priests shortages to sexual abuse cases which have damaged the Church’s authority.

As a Jesuit, Pope Francis is capable in his new position, von Arx said. President von Arx stated that Pope Francis has the experience to lead the Church, noting his intellectual exploits and leadership within the Society of Jesus and his awareness of the “many old ways … being challenged and new experiments in religious life attempted.”

University students studying abroad in Italy were grateful to be in the country during this important event.

“As a practicing Catholic, it has been a great experience to be in Italy as the Church makes a historic step forward,” said Spencer Colpitts ’14, who is studying abroad in Florence. “… Change is healthy. It will be great to hear new ideas and have a new perspective to guide the Church through its newest challenges.”

Junior Stephen Boundy said being in Italy at the same time a pope is elected has been “an absolute honor.”

Junior Maria Mazzaro, also in Florence, added, “I think, whether you are religious or not, or even if you’re not Catholic, it’s momentous when things like this happen, because we’re living through history.

“It’s exciting to say we lived through something that our children will read about one day.”



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