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Pope Francis: new hope or more of the same?


Vatican

Pope Francis: new hope or more of the same?

The Archbishop of Buenos Aries, Jorge Mario Bergoglio – a man described as humble and simple in his tastes – is now pope.

He is charged with bridging the differences between conservatives and reformers, he is seen as conformist on sexual matters, yet liberal on social justice.

Bergoglio was no one’s favourite to get the job as Bishop of Rome, but in 2005 he was runner-up in the conclave that elected Joseph Ratzinger as head of the Catholic Church.

The first pope from Latin America is now 76-years-old and that in itself is a surprise, many thought that the conclave would elect a much younger man, considering the void left by the resignation of Pope Benedict on health grounds.

One of five children born to Italian immigrants in Buenos Aries; as a young man Jorge developed an infection that resulted in the removal of one of his lungs.

At the age of 21, he decided to enter the priesthood as a Jesuit and was ordained in 1969. He studied humanities and graduated in philosophy. Despite the Jesuits being one of the largest orders in the Catholic Church he is the first ever Jesuit to lead the faithful.

Junta

One moment of controversy marked his time as a priest and that was during the military junta’s rule of Argentina between 1976-1983.

Two Jesuits were abducted and secretly jailed for their work in the slums. Bergoglio served as the priests’ Provincial Superior at the time and was accused of not protecting them from the authorities.

This is something Bergoglio and his office deny. Indeed they claim it was his work behind the scenes that gained the two men their freedom.

“Medieval”

His relationship with President Cristina Fernandez is a tad fraught. Argentina is the first Latin American country to legalise same-sex marriage.

When he argued that gay adoptions discriminated against children the president said his views dated back to medieval times.

The new pope is uncompromising when it comes to the principals of the church euthanasia, abortion and the celibacy of priests.

Whether Pope Francis delivers reform or sticks to traditional doctrine his time as the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics is crucial.

He must confront the child sex abuse allegations, Vatileaks and financial scandals at the Vatican Bank head-on or the church and its followers will face a further loss of credibility in a world that grows more sceptical by the day.

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