And so it has come to pass that the 266th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church was elected in the person of Pope Francis I. The election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina came as a surprise even with the much touted openness stance of the Church in accepting changes. He is the first non-European Pope in 1,300 years of an institution that has existed for 2,000 years.
Cardinal Bergoglio came out the choice on March 13, 2013, the second day of voting in a conclave participated in by 115 cardinal electors. It would appear that the aspect of age has been relegated to the background since Bergoglio is 76 years old, only 2 years younger than Pope Benedict XVI when he was elected. It is to be noted that Pope Benedict XVI decided to step down from his post due to health reasons after serving as Pope for more than 7 years only as compared to his predecessor Pope John Paul II who served for 27 years. Pope John Paul II was elected when he was 58 years old.
The choice of the name Pope Francis I was done in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, who was known for living a life of simplicity and poverty. Pope Francis is intent on having ” a Church that is poor and for the poor”. He seemed to have started demonstrating such intentions when he chose to ride the shuttle bus with the other cardinals for a trip back to the Vatican residence instead of riding the papal limousine.
This action is not very different from his usual choices as a cardinal when he chose to ride public transportation and stay in low-budget living arrangements. It is of note that many people see the Vatican or the people in it as leading a life of luxury. Pope Francis I’s humility is expected to bring the Roman Catholic Church into a new light as he tackles the most serious problems confronting the Church.