by JASMINE ELSHAMY Photo & Video Editor
The first South American elected to lead the Catholic Church on Wednesday, March 13, was Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who chose the name of Francis. Pope Francis was officially inaugurated in the Vatican City on Tuesday, March 19, 2013.
Pope Francis is the 266th pope, the first Latin American to be elected to the papacy, and the first Jesuit priest to lead the world’s population of 1.2 billion Catholics.
In his first address as pope, the traditional Urbi et Orbi (to the “City and the World”), crowds waved, cried, and cheered for the new leader of the Catholic Church.
He prayed for the church, the papacy, and for his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
“As you know, the duty of the conclave was to appoint a bishop of Rome. It seems to me that my brother cardinals have chosen one who is from far away, but here I am,” he said, adding that he thanked the church “for your embrace,” as well as the cardinals who elected him.
Finding out the results of the voting was very suspenseful for many devout Catholics, along with all of the Italians, faithfully waited near the Vatican to watch the white smoke rise. Francis was elected to the papacy after two days of conclave meetings with five rounds of voting.
Voting in the conclave, which began Tuesday afternoon, is confidential and cardinals were sworn to secrecy, but Francis received at least 77 votes, which is the minimum two-thirds required to become pope. There were 115 cardinals eligible to vote in the conclave. All were under age 80 before Benedict’s retirement, as required by Vatican rules. In 2005, when Benedict was elected, selection took two days and four voting rounds.
Though many Catholics hoped for a more progressive pope, Pope Francis is a conservative who is anti-gay marriage and anti-gay adoption, continuing the Church’s traditional stance. He has described same-sex marriage as the work of the devil and a “destructive attack on God’s plan.” He has also said that gay adoption is a form of discrimination against children.
At the same time, Argentina has deemed same-sex marriage legal.
“As a Catholic myself, I guess I’m happy that a new pope has been elected from somewhere other than Europe. But to be frank, I am disappointed he is anti-gay,” says sophomore Bree McKenna. “We don’t seem to be making any progress in that area for Catholicism and it’s the twenty-first century.”
In a 2007 address at a large meeting of Latin American bishops, Francis emphasized that belief: “We live in the most unequal part of the world, which has grown the most yet reduced misery the least,” he said. “The unjust distribution of goods persists, creating a situation of social sin that cries out to Heaven and limits the possibilities of a fuller life for so many of our brothers.”
The new pope is expected to uphold church orthodoxy on sexuality, abortion, marriage and contraception. However, he has shown compassion for people with HIV and AIDS; in 2001, he visited AIDS patients in a hospice where he washed and kissed the feet of 12 patients.
Meanwhile, Pope Benedict XVI will keep his title and remain in seclusion in Castel Gandolfo, his summer residence near Rome, until restoration work on a monastery on Vatican ground is completed. He will be known as pope emeritus, and will still be called “his holiness.”