The conclave of cardinals elected a pope from Latin America – home to nearly forty percent of the world’s Catholic population.
On March 13, 2013, the cardinals of the Catholic Church made an historic choice for the man to succeed Pope Benedict XVI, who resigned in February. For the first time in more than twelve hundred years, the conclave of cardinals elected a pope who is not from Europe, choosing a man from Latin America – home to nearly forty percent of the world’s Catholic population.
The new pope, who took the name Francis, is Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the former Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina and a member of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits). Pope Francis is 76 years old and reportedly a man of simple tastes; he eschewed the archbishop’s palace for a simple apartment, cooked his own meals, and rode the bus to work. In his pastoral work in Argentina he emphasized the importance of social justice and the need to alleviate the misery of the poor and disadvantaged.
President Barack Obama offered warm wishes to Pope Francis as he begins his papacy. “As a champion of the poor and the most vulnerable among us,” said President Obama in a statement, “he carries forth the message of love and compassion that has inspired the world for more than two thousand years – that in each other we see the face of God. As the first pope from the Americas, his selection also speaks to the strength and vitality of a region that is increasingly shaping our world, and alongside millions of Hispanic Americans, those of us in the United States share the joy of this historic day.”
“Just as I appreciated our work with Pope Benedict XVI,” said President Obama, “I look forward to working with His Holiness to advance peace, security and dignity for our fellow human beings, regardless of their faith.”
Secretary of State John Kerry also congratulated the new pope and said in a statement “the United States renews our commitment to working closely with the Holy See to advance our shared belief in peace and humanity. We offer the Holy Father our warmest wishes of success in advancing peace, freedom, and human dignity throughout the world.”