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McPhersonSentinel - McPherson, KS
  • The unprecedented Pope Francis

  • The election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio as pope represents a number of firsts for the Roman Catholic Church. He is the first pontiff from the Americas, specifically Argentina; the first Jesuit to hold the position; and the first to take the name Francis. Pope Francis was chosen on day two of the conclave of eligible cardinals, succeeding Pope Benedict XVI, to whom he reportedly finished as runner-up in 2005.
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  • The election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio as pope represents a number of firsts for the Roman Catholic Church. He is the first pontiff from the Americas, specifically Argentina; the first Jesuit to hold the position; and the first to take the name Francis. Pope Francis was chosen on day two of the conclave of eligible cardinals, succeeding Pope Benedict XVI, to whom he reportedly finished as runner-up in 2005.
    For those who thought the Catholic Church might seek a younger, more moderate leader, Pope Francis is neither. At 76 the 266th pope is known for his commitment to conservative orthodoxy. On reproductive issues and a larger role for women in the church, he's where his predecessors were. He tussled with the Argentine government on same-sex marriage. But he also has dedicated himself to the cause of social justice, specifically decrying the "unjust distribution of goods" as a "social sin."
    His borrowing of Francis of Assisi's name is considered significant, as the 13th-century Catholic icon and patron saint of animals and the environment was revered for truly living his vow of poverty and humility. Apparently he's walked the talk, known in Buenos Aires for trading the archbishop's mansion for a small apartment, for riding public transportation and for preparing his own meals.
    Latin America has the largest share of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics - some 40 percent of them - so it makes sense to have gone there for new leadership as opposed to an increasingly secular Europe or a United States where the church has been tainted by a child sexual abuse and cover-up scandal. His record would appear to be clean in that latter regard, which is important, though some wish he had spoken more forcefully against the brutality of the Argentine government against its own people three decades ago.
    Beyond that he's described as an intellectual, someone who initially trained to be a chemist. He is said to have decent managerial skills, which will be tested and then some if he tries to reform the Roman Curia that runs the Vatican and to address transparency issues at a Vatican Bank that may be on the verge of being expelled from the mainstream global banking community. An institution that signals the election of a new chief with puffs of white smoke from a stack atop the ancient Sistine Chapel is not exactly synonymous with a mastery of modern communication methods, but if its leaders hope to spread the word in those areas where they believe their future is most promising, that will have to be part of their arsenal.
    It has been a whirlwind month for the Catholic Church, starting with the surprise retirement of Pope Benedict, the first such in 600 years. There is nothing quite like this process, shrouded in a sort of mystery, in the world. One can forgive Pope Francis for looking a little overwhelmed by it all at his first public appearance, and Catholics for having something to cheer. "To have a pope from this hemisphere and south of the border ... My goodness, we've got a pope from the country that invented the tango," Peoria Bishop Daniel Jenky said. "I imagine there's a lot of dancing in the streets of Buenos Aires today."
    Page 2 of 2 - Good luck to the Catholic Church and its new pope as they dance today, with their work cut out for them tomorrow.
    — Journal Star of Peoria, Ill.
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