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Pope Francis

Pope Francis by Julie Lonneman

Artist Narrative:

Pope Francis, born Jorge Mario Bergoglio in 1936 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, is the first pope from the Americas and the first from the Southern Hemisphere. Like St. Francis, his papal namesake, the pope is known for his humility, simplicity, and concern for the poor. Following St. Francis’ example, Pope Francis has dedicated himself to the reform and healing of the Church. In his words,

“We grow in understanding of the truth….There are ecclesiastical rules and precepts that were once effective, but now they have lost value or meaning. The view of the Church’s teaching as a monolith to defend without nuance or different understandings is wrong.”

Through his efforts, may the Church become realigned with the core message of Jesus, and in turn,“…enter fully into the fabric of society, sharing the lives of all, listening to their concerns, helping them materially and spiritually in their needs, rejoicing with those who rejoice, weeping with those who weep.”

And, with Pope Francis, may we the Church become ever more committed to building a new world, arm in arm with others.

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Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on December 17, 1936, Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope Francis on March 13, 2013, when he was named the 266th pope of the Roman Catholic Church. Bergoglio, the first pope from the Americas, reportedly took his papal title after St. Francis of Assisi of Italy. Prior to his election as pope, Bergoglio served as archbishop of Buenos Aires from 1998 to 2013 (succeeding Antonio Quarracino), as cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church of Argentina from 2001 to 2013, and as president of the Bishops' Conference of Argentina from 2005 to 2011. Pope Francis made his first international visit in July 2013, traveling to Brazil. In December 2013, Pope Francis was also named Person of the Year by TIME magazine.

Early Life and Education

Jorge Mario Bergoglio was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on December 17, 1936, to Italian immigrants. As a teenager, Bergoglio underwent surgery to remove a lung due to serious infection. Following his high school graduation, he enrolled at the University of Buenos Aires, where he received a master's degree in chemistry before beginning training at the Jesuit seminary of Villa Devoto. In March 1958, he entered the Society of Jesus.

Bergoglio went on to attend the Philosophical and Theological Faculty of San Miguel, where he earned a degree in philosophy, and later received a doctorate in theology in Freiburg, Germany.

Entering Priesthood

Ordained as a priest in December 1969, Bergoglio began serving as Jesuit provincial of Argentina in 1973. He later returned to his alma mater, the Philosophical and Theological Faculty of San Miguel, where he served as rector (1980-86) as well as a professor of theology.

In June 1992, Bergoglio was named titular bishop of Auca and auxiliary of Buenos Aires, and in February 1998, he became archbishop of Buenos Aires, succeeding Antonio Quarracino. Three years later, in February 2001, he was elevated to cardinal by Pope John Paul II, named the cardinal-priest of Saint Robert Bellarmine. In 2005, he was named president of the Bishops' Conference of Argentina, serving in that position until 2011.

After Pope John Paul II's death in April 2005, Bergoglio reportedly received the second-most votes in the 2005 papal election; Pope Benedict XVI (Joseph Ratzinger) won election as Pope John Paul's successor.

Early into his priesthood, Bergoglio earned a reputation as a doctrinal conservative. He strongly opposed the legalization of same-sex marriage in Argentina, calling it "a destructive attack on God's plan" (a same-sex marriage bill was approved by Argentinian lawmakers in July 2010, making Argentina the first country in Latin America to legalize such legislation). He also publicly disputed efforts to promote free contraception and artificial insemination led by Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez.

Becoming Pope

On March 13, 2013, at the age of 76, Jorge Bergoglio was named the 266th pope of the Roman Catholic Church—becoming the first citizen from the Americas, the first non-European and first Jesuit priest to be named pope, and adopting the name Pope Francis (he reportedly took the title after St. Francis of Assisi of Italy, a Catholic preacher during the 12th and 13th centuries). Prior to the 2013 papal election, Pope Francis had served as both archbishop and cardinal for more than 12 years.

Addressing a crowd of tens of thousands in St. Peter's Square, in the Vatican City in Rome, Italy, after his election win, Pope Francis stated, "As you know, the duty of the conclave was to appoint a bishop of Rome. It seems to me that my brother cardinals have chosen one who is from far away. ...Here I am. I would like to thank you for your embrace."

After the 2013 papal election results were announced, U.S. President Barack Obama issued a statement about the new pope: "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."

In addition to his native Spanish, Bergoglio speaks Italian and German.