The Catholic Church has a new leader in time for Palm Sunday! Now, the world can get to know Pope Francis I, formerly known as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Pope Francis is the first non-European Pope, the fact of which has dominated the early reports of his election by the College of Cardinals. But we went looking for more detailed information about the man who will now lead the Catholic Church, and hold the most influential position in all of Christiandom.
According to insider reports, Bergoglio was considered the runner-up in the last papal election in 2005. Thankfully, this provides for some easily accessible information about his positions and prior statements. The conservative Jesuit priest who later led the cardinals in Latin America is seen as a pious and personally modest man with a deep commitment to the poor. He also seems to have a slightly more complex view of homosexuality than his papal predecessor.
While a cardinal, Pope Francis made plenty of news with his vocal opposition to Argentina’s approval of same-sex marriage. He vehemently opposes allowing same-sex couples to adopt, going so far as to call it discrimination against children.
But news of these strong views is always coupled with another anecdote that seems to be winning the Pope some major compassion points. In 2001, then Cardinal Bergoglio kissed and washed the feet of 12 AIDS patients. The act, coupled with various speeches about respect and tolerance for homosexuals, has earned the new Pope something of a complex image on this controversial topic.
(It might be worth noting that when I stated this little story to my husband, who was raised in the Catholic Church and attended Catholic schools, he said, “Yea… that’s what priests do. Jesus washed feet. Priests wash feet.” Apparently, my husband is not so easily swayed.)
Only time will tell what issues Pope Francis I will address and in what direction he plans to lead the Catholic Church. One thing is for sure, this historic appointment will be worth paying attention to.