First Latin American Pope: Francis I

First Latin American Pope: Francis I
Photo from the Vatican










The world has the first pope from Latin America. He is Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina and will go by the name Pope Francis I.

He is a man that can perhaps bridge Catholics in the old and new world.

Bergoglio is the son of Italians who migrated to Argentina. It is estimated that up to 60 percent of Argentines have some Italian heritage.

So he should be popular in Italy and he also has chosen a name of one of their patron saints.

He was born and raised in Latin America this is symbolically important to Catholics there. Around 39 percent of the world's Catholics are in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to the Pew Research Center.

Brazil and Mexico are the two countries with the largest number of Catholics at 126 and 96 million respectively.

And Bergoglio also should have wide appeal with Latino Catholics in the United States. Around one-third of the 75 million U.S. Catholics are Latino.

Catholics have decreased in numbers in Latin America as some have turned to evangelical churches.  Pope Francis I may help stem people from leaving the church.

The new pope is 76 and is the first pope to select the name Francis and also the first Jesuit to be pope. His father was a railroad worker.

He is said to be deeply concerned about social inequality.

"He shares the view that the Church should have a missionary role, that gets out to meet people, that is active.... a church that does not so much regulate the faith as promote and facilitate it," Francesca Ambrogetti, who co-authored a biography of Bergoglio, told Reuters.

He also lives an almost monk-like life and takes the bus. He does not live in the fancy archbishop's residence and chose a small apartment in Buenos Aires.

But he is not without controversy. He allegedly refused to protect two priests who were jailed by the Argentine military government in the 1970s for working with the poor, according to a book "The Silence" written by Argentine journalist Horacio Verbitsky.

But supporters of Bergoglio said the contrary that the former cardinal actually helped dissidents during Argentina's dictatorship.

More recently, he opposed the gay marriage law that was approved in Argentina in 2010. He said in a letter it is "a destructive attempt to God's plan."

It's not surprising the new pope would oppose gay marriage.

Hopefully he will reach out to people of all backgrounds, gay and straight, rich and poor, and people of all races and ethnicities from around the world. He should defend children who have been abused by priests and root out those who have hidden behind church doors.

He has a responsibility to defend the voiceless, eradicate corruption and also inspire us to believe the Catholic Church can do more to live up to the values that we should all love, respect and help one another.


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