It might be really hard for two-thirds of the United States Senate to agree on anything, but at the Vatican, it apparently only takes five votes over two days to make history. Today, the 115 assembled cardinals selected Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, the first Jesuit and first Latin American, as the Catholic Church’s newest leader. His 114 peers have already sworn allegiance to him, and he’s taken the name Pope Francis.
Ordinarily, the selection of a new Pope is an event filled with mixed emotions. The thousands gathered at the Vatican typically celebrate the Church’s new direction while fondly remembering the leader who just passed. Today, however, was far different. Pope Benedict XVI is still alive and kicking but made the decision to resign last month, making him the first Pope to do so in roughly six hundred years. Consequently, there was none of the post-funeral jitters in the crowd today, only happy Catholics excited about new beginnings.
According to USA Today, many observers expected the cardinals to select someone from either Africa, Latin America or Asia, three areas in which Church membership is booming. Attendance has been down quite a bit in Europe and the United States, but the hope is a new Pope could continue to push growth in the new markets and allow the Church to move on from its past in a way Pope Benedict XVI, who wasn’t overly popular, never could.
At this point, it’s difficult to predict whether Pope Francis will follow Benedict XVI’s example and continue moving the Church toward a more fundamental theology and conservative worldview or whether he’ll move a little more toward the center and make the faith more tolerant and attractive to younger people. Personally, I prefer a Vatican that does things like endorse The Blues Brothers as opposed to worrying about Golden Compass sequels no one was going to watch anyway, but considering Pope Francis has 1.2 billion Catholics to please, I know this is about a lot more than me.
Regardless of what direction the Church moves in, here’s to hoping seventy-six-year-old Pope Francis’ run is remembered fondly for centuries to come.
Enthusiastic about Clue, case-of-the-week mysteries, the NBA and cookies at Disney World. Less enthusiastic about the pricing structure of cable, loud noises and Tuesdays.
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