By Anthony Garcia
March 20, 2013
With church bells ringing and cheers from a crowd of thousands, and the famous white smoke billowing from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina was selected to be the 266th pope of the Catholic Church on March 13, 2013.
The selection of Bergoglio elicited a mixture of reactions from Catholics, ranging from genuine excitement for the future of the Church, to questions of whether Bergoglio is the correct choice to lead a church during a crucial period.
Born on December 17, 1936, Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, became the first pope chosen from the Jesuit order and come from the Americas.
Bergoglio first entered into the Society of Jesus in 1958, became an Auxiliary Bishop in 1992 and was created a Cardinal in 2001.
After the death of John Paul II, it was reported in 2005 that Bergoglio was the main challenger and runner-up to the eventual selection of Cardinal Ratzinger. Only after Bergoglio emotionally pleaded for the other cardinals to not vote for him did Ratzinger seemingly secure his papacy.
Since then, Bergoglio became known for his personal humility, doctrinal conservatism and strong commitment to social justice and assistance. His highly publicized simplistic lifestyle has also proved him to be an influential figure in the Church.
Director of University Ministry Shannon Green was thoroughly surprised with the selection of Bergoglio, since Green initially did not hear the pope’s name mentioned in the media, thinking that Cardinal Scherer of Brazil seemed more likely.
In regards to what Pope Francis should do next, Green hopes he follows through with the answers that many Catholics are looking for.
“Our Church needs a leader who will listen to his flock and provide a vision of compassion and hope,” Green explained. “The world church is hurting from so much scandal, and we need a humble pope who can lead us to greater healing.”
Green said that she looks forward to the Church beginning to modernize under the new administration as well as make its actions more transparent and clear.
“[I expect Francis to] be visible on the world stage, to take stands on issues of global poverty and the growing disparity between rich and poor,” Green added.
While many have noted the humility and simplicity of Pope Francis, others have criticized his conservative stance on gay marriage and the adoption of children by gays and lesbians.
In 2010, legalization of gay marriage was passed in the Pope’s homeland of Argentina, but not before he and other bishops let their opposition of the bill be heard first.
Bergoglio once called the new law for gay marriage in Argentina “a scheme to destroy God’s plan” and “a real and dire anthropological throwback.”
Tim Padgett of Time Magazine in July 2010, noted Argentina’s bishops, including Bergoglio as not, “content to simply denounce the legislation; they used the occasion to argue for the sub humanity of homosexual men and lesbians, the way many white Southern preachers weren’t ashamed to degrade African Americans during the civil rights movement.”
Edward Pentin of the National Catholic Register also noted the new pope’s views on adoption in gay families, quoting Bergoglio as stating that this kind of adoption will, “seriously damage the family” and, “At stake is the identity and survival of the family: father, mother and children.”
Green however thinks that Pope Francis won’t necessarily focus on these “North American hot button issues” rather turning his attention to something he has dealt with in the past, the growing epidemic of poverty.
“This Pope certainly holds to the doctrine of the current church teaching, and no one expects that to change,” she said. “I believe this Pope will focus more on the plight of the poor in the global economy, and perhaps will extend himself into interreligious dialogue as well.”
Recent Dominican alumna and Argentinian native Ivana Gentile was extremely proud of the selection of Pope Francis not only because of his connection to Argentina, but also due to his continued exhibition of humbleness and dedication to the poor.
“He cooks for himself, he refused to live in the Cardinal’s house in Argentina, and he even took the bus or drove his bike to work,” Gentile said. “He always stood up for what he believed in, even if he had to go against Argentina’s current president.”
Gentile also mentioned that while Pope Francis isn’t really the first non-European pope due to his Italian-born parents, the pope represents a wider range of the globe.
“In a way, he belongs to the multi-cultural group, like lots of people and I do, today!” Gentile exclaimed. “It is a huge honor to have a multicultural pope and I’m sure that he will do a wonderful job with communicating with the whole Catholic world, especially because of the pope’s fluency in Spanish and Italian among other languages.”
Professor of theology Clodagh Weldon was excited seeing the introduction of Pope Francis.
“For me, the most beautiful moment came when he stood on the balcony of St Peter’s and before giving the Papal blessing, Pope Francis asked the people to bless him,” she said. “It was a moment of profound significance for who we are as Church.”
“The Church has long been a global church, however our global diversity has not been well-represented in the hierarchy,” Green added. “I believe this is a recognition of our reality as church as universal. We are one faith but many peoples with many traditions, cultures and gifts to bring to our world. While we do not know much about Francis just yet, his election is a hopeful sign of unity.”