On Wednesday, March 13th, some thirty days after Pope Benedict XVI unexpectedly announced his resignation, Jorge Mario Bergoglio was ordained Pope Francis. The first non-European to fill the position in twelve centuries and the first-ever member of the Jesuit order, the 266th pontiff is now responsible for leading more than 1.2 billion Roman Catholics worldwide. Francis was formerly the archbishop of Buenos Aires where he was known for being a warm, pastoral figure and good communicator. He took his name from the patron saint of animals, merchants and ecology, St. Francis of Assisi.
Francis appeared on the balcony over the entrance to St. Peter’s Basilica to wave to the crowds almost half an hour after white smoke began spilling from the chimney above the Sistine Chapel, signalling that the cardinals had made their decision. Looking pensive and a little intimidated as he overlooked the bustling expanse of jubilant people waving umbrellas and flags shouting “Habemus Papam” and “Viva il Papa,” he addressed the world for the first time as pope.
“I would like to thank you for your embrace,” the seventy-six year old new pope said from the balcony. “My brother cardinals have chosen one who is from far away, but here I am.”
“It was like waiting for the birth of a baby, only better,” said Roman spectator Guiliano Uncini, whose son was poised on his shoulders waving a crucifix.
Telling the faithful gathered that they were embarking with him on “a journey of fraternity, of love, of trust among us,” Francis plans to uphold traditional and conservative views, opposing controversial topics that have been presented to the Vatican in recent years such as abortion, gay marriage, and the ordination of women.
“As a champion of the poor and the most vulnerable among us, he carries forth the message of love and compassion that has inspired the world for more than 2,000 years — that in each other we see the face of God,” said U.S. President Barack Obama, who was one of the first world leaders to congratulate Francis for his humility and New World origins. “As the first pope from the Americas, his selection also speaks to the strength and vitality of a region that is increasingly shaping our world, and alongside millions of Hispanic Americans, those of us in the United States share the joy of this historic day.”