The newest pope, a humble, educated man-of-faith from Buenos Aires, Argentina, has been elected to replace Pope Benedict, who stepped down February 28th, during the recent conclave. He was born Jorge Mario Bergoglio
and has been a Cardinal since 2001 and has chosen to be called Francis
, after St. Francis of Assisi, a well-respected saint by many people and not simply Catholics. Pope Francis is the 266th Pope in history and the first non-European in 1000 years! Pope Francis is, also, the first Jesuit
Pope to be elected.
One day in February, my husband asked me if I had heard that Pope Benedict was retiring. I just stared at him while there was a pause as I thought that news through. I asked confusedly, "wait... that's an option? A Pope can retire? I thought it was a lifetime position!" Patiently, my husband who was raised Catholic, explained that yes it is a lifetime appointment, but a man can choose to retire if the need arises. I asked when the Pope would retire and was told the end of February. I asked if a new Pope would be elected prior to his stepping down and hubby explained that no, that is not how it is done. There will be a conclave in March and then a new Pope would be elected. As I stood in a state of confusion, I just thought, ookkkaayyyy.... I suppose there is a tradition in doing things a certain way in the Catholic Church.
Today I was glued to the TV to see the white smoke appear after just the fifth vote then waited patiently for the new Pontiff to make an appearance. There was certainly a lot of Pomp and Circumstance prior to the arrival of the announcement, with crowds cheering while standing in the rain awaiting the announcement; the official band marched, guards stepped in time and were put into place, hearts raced and patience ensued within giddy excitement. Finally, French cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran appeared after the red drapes opened with a flourish, coming forward and with the Latin words "Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum. Habemus Papam" ("I announce to you a great joy. We have a pope"), the 76-year old Pope Francis was announced to the waiting world.
Out of some 7-billion people in the world, there are 1.2-billion Catholics, and 7% of those Catholics live in the United States, which is a substantial amount compared to the 300-some million people living here. 75-million is a rather high percent of the population as a whole, and that doesn't count other Christians of varying faiths. When there is a new Pontiff that is BIG news!
Personally, I am a Christian with an Eastern-Philosophy bent but if I know anything, I realize that the religion isn't what is important, it is the underlying faith that is important. So today, faith has taken a leap forward in choosing such an honorable man who has lived simply all these years in an apartment, taking the bus and cooking for himself, to be the leader of a religion embraced by so many, many people.