The College of Cardinals made history on Wednesday by selection a non-European as the head of the Catholic Church.
Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was named pope on the second day of the conclave in Vatican City on Wednesday, becoming the first leader of the Catholic Church to come from outside of Europe.
Bergoglio appeared on the balcony above St. Peter's Square as tens of thousands of supporters cheered from below. He chose the name Pope Francis.
“Let us pray for the entire world so that there is a great fraternity, a great brotherhood. I wish that this journey that we begin today… is fruitful for the evangelization of this beautiful city,” he said from Vatican City, per a CBC News translator.
Pope Francis succeeded Pope Benedict XVI, who suddenly retired last month. He received more than two-thirds support from the 115-member College of Cardinals on the fifth vote — said to be a relatively quick decision.
HABEMUS PAPAM FRANCISCUM
— Pontifex (@Pontifex) March 13, 2013
It is somewhat unexpected to have Bergoglio selected as pope. The Jesuit was not believed to be among the leading contenders when the College of Cardinals entered seclusion on Tuesday.
One such contender was Quebec Cardinal Marc Ouellet, who sat as head of the Vatican's bishops' office, and previously participated in the conclave when Pope Benedict XVI was selected in 2005.
In an interview with CBC News earlier this month, Ouellet offered a humble answer when asked whether he wanted to be pope. "I have to be ready even if I think that probably others could do it better."
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The new pope will lead the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, and sit as one of the most influential leaders in the modern world. Most North American church members felt a more liberal pope was necessary to herald the church into the modern era.
Bergoglio is already 77 years old with conservative views, and is believed to have lost the last conclave to Benedict XVI in a tight vote.
CNN said this about the new pope:
Until last year, Bergoglio was the archbishop of Buenos Aires before stepping down because of his age…Bergoglio is considered a straight-shooter who calls things as he sees them, and a follower of the church’s most conservative wing. He has clashed with the government of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner over his opposition to gay marriage and free distribution of contraceptives.
But compared to many, Bergoglio is expected to be an agent of change in the Catholic Church. The Argentinian has become the first non-European to be named pope. He is not a Vatican insider, in fact he has never lived in the city.
The Washington Post reports that Bergolio is charismatic, focused on social outreach and "has shown a keen political sensibility as well as the kind of self-effacing humility that fellow cardinals value highly."
According to the Post, Bergolio made a much-buzzed about speech last year in which he criticized church officials for forgetting that Jesus Christ bathed lepers and ate with prostitutes.
Bergoglio is known for modernizing an Argentine church that had been among the most conservative in Latin America.
As Argentina’s top church official, he’s never lived in the ornate church mansion in Buenos Aires, preferring a simple bed in a downtown room heated by a small stove on frigid weekends. For years, he took public transportation around the city, and cooked his own meals.
It may not seem like a progressive choice, but perhaps Pope Francis can use that mindset to bring some humility to the top levels of the Catholic Church. With humility, anything is possible. Even progress.