Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires elected as Pope Francis

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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Jorge Mario Bergoglio in 2012
Image: Sandra Hernandez.

The Roman Catholic Church has elected Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires as the new pope. He is to take the papal name Francis and take over from the recently retired Benedict XVI.

White smoke rose from the Sistine Chapel chimney at 7:06pm (Rome time) yesterday, signifying that the conclave had elected a new pope after four unsuccessful attempts. Following his election, he appeared at a balcony in St. Peter's Square to greet crowds of onlookers.

Introducing himself in St. Peter's Square, Francis was jovial: "Brothers and sisters, good evening. You know that the work of the conclave is to give a bishop to Rome. It seems as if my brother cardinals went to find him from the end of the earth. Thank you for the welcome." He went on to say: "Let's begin this long road from the Bishop of Rome to the people. Let us all behave with love and charity. Let us pray always not just for ourselves, but for others, for everyone in the word".

Born in Buenos Aires on December 17, 1936 and now aged 76, the new pope became a bishop in 1992, and was elevated to cardinal in 2001 by Pope John Paul II. As a child, he lost a lung due to an infection. He is the first Jesuit pope and the first from the Americas. He was the President of the Bishops' Conference of Argentina from 2005 to 2011.

US President Barack Obama made a statement about the election of the new pope: "On behalf of the American people, Michelle and I offer our warm wishes to His Holiness Pope Francis as he ascends to the Chair of Saint Peter and begins his papacy." Obama's statement noted the new pope was a "champion of the poor and the most vulnerable among us", and "[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".

US House Speaker John Boehner also pointed out the new pope came from the Americas: "I think that reaching out beyond the traditional continent of our church is another big step in the right direction of our church." British Prime Minister David Cameron said that the papal election was "a momentous day for the 1.2 billion Catholics around the world".

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said the election of a new Pope was of "great significance to Christians everywhere, not least Anglicans". He went on to describe the new pope: "Pope Francis is well known as a compassionate pastor of real stature who has served the poor in Latin America, and whose simplicity and holiness of life is remarkable. He is an evangelist, sharing the love of Christ which he himself knows."

In Argentina, he was outspoken against socially liberal policies including the provision of free contraception and gay marriage. Bergoglio said plans to legalize gay marriage in Argentina were "a plan to destroy God's plan" and "a move by the father of lies to confuse and deceive the children of God".

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said Francis would be known as Pope Francis; "It will become Francis I after we have a Francis II".

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