A historic choice

Pope Francis reflects how important Latin America is for the church

The election of Argentinean Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as the new leader of the Catholic Church signals a change, highlighting the importance that faithful from Latin America and developing countries have now.

This is a historic event because Francis—the name Bergoglio chose—is the first non-European pope and the first Jesuit among the 265 popes who have led the church.

What every pope contributed to his reign were the personal life experiences that shaped his papacy. Francis I brings his experience as a Latin American and a Jesuit priest, a member of a religious order whose central philosophy is helping the poor. However, we can’t expect great doctrinal changes.

Conservatives and progressives consider Bergoglio a moderate. Because of his recent public campaign against same-sex marriage, the government dislikes him. Likewise, his role during the military dictatorship, as part of an ecclesiastical hierarchy that was too close to the oppressors, is controversial.

The apolitical stance that was so criticized back then is the same he has shown throughout his religious career. This made him an unusual candidate for pontiff, because of his low profile and humility, as well as not being part of the Vatican’s power circles. So much so, that after he was set aside when Benedict XVI was elected, very few observers had Bergoglio on the list of cardinals likely to become pope.

What was to be expected is for the message of the Catholic Church’s social doctrine to take on new strength with this appointment. The figure of Pope Francis has the potential for Catholicism to be able to recover the ground it has lost in the Americas.

The election of Pope Francis is a historic event at a tough time for the church. This is an opportunity for renewal that should not be missed.