Humility thy name is Francis.
That is the consensus of those who know Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who was elected Wednesday to lead the Roman Catholic Church as Pope Francis.
The question that always presents as a new pope takes the helm is whether he will be traditional, transitional or transformational. It seems that Pope Francis may be a mixture of all of the above.
He is a traditional doctrinal conservative who has battled against gay marriage in his native Argentina. Those who want to see a change in the church's stance on the role of women and sexuality shouldn't expect much movement.
On the other hand, he is 76 years old, which is the primary argument used by pundits who see him as a
However, we believe there is clearly something transformational afoot. Pope Francis is the first non-European pope in more than 1,000 years and he is the first ever from South America. But there is more at work here than simple geography.
South America is the most heavily Catholic continent and the Church's most impressive growth has come throughout the Third World, especially among the poor. Pope Francis is the first Jesuit selected to lead the Church. The Jesuit order takes a vow of poverty. By all accounts, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio has lived that vow and has done so with remarkable humility.
As a cardinal in Buenos Aires, now-Pope Francis was known to
He also has been quite vocal on social justice issues. In 2007, for instance, he told the Latin American bishops, "We live in the most unequal part of the world, which has grown the most yet reduced misery the least. 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."
It is such statements that lead us to believe Pope Francis may lead a significant shift of Church focus toward Latin America, the developing world and the poor.
But perhaps the most significant argument for Pope Francis being transformational is that he has no close ties to the Vatican bureaucracy, known as the Curia. Many in the Church believe it to be bloated, out-of-touch and heavy-handed. Its dysfunction was dramatically showcased in its dismal response to the American scandal involving sexual abuse of children by priests. The Vatican bureaucracy for years turned a blind eye toward both the abuse and the clear institutional concealment of it.
We found it interesting that in his first speech Wednesday, Pope Francis emphasized his role as "Bishop of Rome," rather than as head of the Church. That may signal a willingness by the new pope to make meaningful changes in the bureaucracy. We certainly hope so.
But right now we want to join the chorus of those wishing this humble man great success as the new pope of the Roman Catholic Church.