The first Pope of the Americas Jorge Mario Bergoglio hails from Argentina. The Jesuit Archbishop of Buenos Aires was a prominent figure throughout the continent, yet remained a simple pastor. He was deeply loved by his diocese, throughout which he traveled extensively on the underground and by bus during the 15 years of his episcopal ministry. That beloved Archbishop is Pope Francis today.
“My people are poor and I am one of them”, he had said more than once, explaining his decision to live in an apartment and cook his own supper. He always advised his priests to show mercy and apostolic courage and to keep their doors open to everyone. The worst thing that could happen to the Church, he said on various occasions, “is what de Lubac called spiritual worldliness”, which means, “being self-centred”. When he speaks of social justice, he wants people to rediscover the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes. His project is simple: if you follow Christ, you understand that “trampling upon a person’s dignity is a serious sin”.
Despite his reserved character — his official biography consists of only a few lines, at least until his appointment as Archbishop of Buenos Aires — he became a reference point because of the strong stances he took during the dramatic financial crisis that overwhelmed the country in 2001.
Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?
Born: 17 December 1936
Place: Flores, a neighbourhood of Buenos Aires
Father: Mario JoseBergoglio (1908 – 1959)
Mother:Regina MariaSivori (1911 – 1981)
Sibblings: Eldest of five
Entered the Society of Jesus: 11 March 1958
Ordained a priest: 13 December 1969
Final Profession: 22 April 1973
Provicial of Argentina: 31 July 1973
Rector of Colegio de San Jose: 1980
Went to Germany to finish his doctoral thesis: 1986
Spiritual Director and Confessor in Colegiodel Salvador in Buenos Aires:
Consecrated Bishop: 27 May 1992
He chose as his episcopal motto, miserandoatqueeligendo, (having mercy, he called him) and on his coat of arms inserted the IHS, the symbol of the Society of Jesus.
Coadjutor Archbishop of Buenos Aires: 3 June 1997
Archbishop of Buenos Aires: 28 February 1998
Consecrated Cardinal: 28 February 2001
He asked the faithful not to come to Rome to celebrate his creation as Cardinal but rather to donate to the poor what they would have spent on the journey.
He is the author of the books: Meditaciones para religiosos (1982), Reflexionessobre la vidaapostólica (1992) and Reflexiones de esperanza (1992).
In October 2001 he was appointed General Relator to the 10th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Episcopal Ministry. At the Synod he placed particular emphasis on “the prophetic mission of the bishop”, his being a “prophet of justice”, his duty to “preach ceaselessly” the social doctrine of the Church and also “to express an authentic judgement in matters of faith and morals”.
Cardinal Bergoglio was becoming ever more popular in Latin America. But he never relaxed his sober approach or his strict lifestyle, which some have defined as almost “ascetic”. In his spirit of humility, he declined to be appointed President of the Argentine Bishops’ Conference in 2002. In 2005 he was elected to that position and then, in 2008, reconfirmed for a further three years.
As Archbishop of Buenos Aires — a diocese with more than three million inhabitants — he conceived of a missionary project based on communion and evangelization.
He had four main goals:
- Open and brotherly communities,
- An informed laity playing a lead role,
- Evangelization efforts addressed to every inhabitant of the city
- Assistance to the poor and the sick.
He aimed to re-evangelize Buenos Aires, “taking into account those who live there, its structure and its history”. He asked priests and lay people to work together. In September 2009 he launched the solidarity campaign for the bicentenary of the Independence of the country.
He was elected Supreme Pontiff on 13 March 2013. On election, he assumed the name Francis because he loved the simplicity and the poor life style of the St. Francis of Assisi.