Church’s new pope is a simple pastor at heart

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ROME, March 14, 2013—The newly-elected pope of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics is a simple pastor at heart. 

Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio has earned a reputation of being a simple pastor and a deeply spiritual man “with a talent for pastoral leadership serving in a region with the largest number of the world’s Catholics” according to a report from Vatican’s Catholic News Service. 

Bergoglio, who took the name Francis upon election to the papacy, was the archbishop of Buenos Aires since 1998. 

As a shepherd to around 2.5 million Argentinean Catholics, Bergoglio’s leadership style is said to be “low-key and close to the people.” 

According to reports, “he rides the bus, visits the poor, lives in a simple apartment and cooks his own meals. To many in Buenos Aires, he is known simply as ‘Father Jorge.’” 

As archbishop of Buenos Aires, Bergoglio showed his administrative skill through the creation of new parishes in the archdiocese. He “restructured the administrative offices, and led pro-life initiatives.” 

He also initiated during his term “new pastoral programs, such as a commission for divorcees.” 

Bergoglio was participant in the 2001 Synod of Bishops as co-presider, and later was elected to the synod council.

A prolific writer, he “has also written books on spirituality and meditation and has been outspoken against abortion and same-sex marriages.” 

Staunch pro-lifer 

When Argentina became the first Latin American country to legalize same-sex marriage in 2010, Bergoglio urged all the clergy in Argentina to tell people to protest ratification of the law as it could “seriously injure the family.” 

Outspoken in his defense for life, Bergoglio was critical of the government’s Argentine “proposal to legalize abortion under certain circumstances as part of a wide-ranging legal reform. He accused the government of lacking respect for the values held by the majority of Argentines and of trying to convince the Catholic Church “to waver in our defense of the dignity of the person.”

He was also against adoption by same-sex couples as doing so would deprive children of the “human growth that God wanted them given by a father and a mother.”

As the leading prelate of Argentina’s estimated 33 million Catholics, Bergoglio often had to speak his mind on issues affecting the economic-socio-political landscape of his country. 

Two years younger 

At 76, the new pope is two years younger than Benedict XVI when the pope emeritus assumed the papacy. 

Born in Buenos Aires, Francis I was ordained a Jesuit on December 13, 1969. He was appointed novice Master and later on provincial for Argentina from 1973-1979. 

He was also rector of the Philosophical and Theological Faculty of San Miguel from 1980-1986. He likewise served as confessor and spiritual director in Cordoba after having completed his doctoral dissertation in Germany. 

On 20 May 1992 he was appointed titular Bishop of Auca and Auxiliary of Buenos Aires, and was consecrated bishop on 27 June of the same year. 

He was appointed Coadjutor Archbishop of Buenos Aires on 3 June 1997 and took over the post after Cardinal Antonio Quarracino on 28 February 1998. 

Bergoglio was the Ordinary for Eastern-rite faithful in Argentina who lack an Ordinary of their own rite. 

Among other responsibilities he held previously include: Adjunct Relator General of the 10th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, October 2001 and serving as President of the Bishops’ Conference of Argentina from 8 November 2005 until 8 November 2011.

He was created and proclaimed Cardinal by  Blessed John Paul II in the consistory of 21 February 2001. 

Bergoglio was also a member of Congregations: for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments; for the Clergy; for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life; Pontifical Council for the Family and Pontifical Commission for Latin America. 

As Pope Francis, Bergoglio takes on the leadership of an estimated 1.2 billion Catholics around the world. (Pinky Barrientos/CBCPNews)

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