This week, the world watched as white smoke billowed over the Vatican, declaring that the 266th pope had been chosen.
The election of Pope Francis, previously Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, marks a series of firsts for the Catholic Church. He is the first pope from the Americas, the first Jesuit pope and the first pope to bear the name of St. Francis of Assisi.
Characterized as a humble man who has advocated for the poor and needy in Argentina, Pope Francis may bring the plight of the poor front and center in the Vatican.
In selecting St. Francis as his namesake, Pope Francis has already given the world indication that he will continue his service to those with lesser means through his papacy, much as he has in his service to the people of Argentina. St. Francis of Assisi was known for his dedication to the poor and downtrodden. In a famous account as a young man, St. Francis gave everything he had to a beggar, earning him the scorn of his friends and family. But he never gave up helping those in need — even devoting himself to a life of poverty.
Pope Francis served the people of Argentina humbly. He was known for his humility, choosing to live in a small apartment rather than in the palatial bishop’s residence. Instead of taking a limousine, he was often seen on public transportation — something that seemed to resonate with the people he was trying to reach.
He has been a vocal advocate of the needy, and we believe this is a good thing. While we do not believe the church will moderate its views on divisive social issues such as abortion and gay rights, part of the problem the church has had attracting the younger generation is the widely held view that its focus on social issues has come at the expense of the traditional goals of the church — helping those in need, loving thy neighbor and serving the poor.
We hope that Pope Francis can turn the views of the church onto service toward others, advocating for the poor and needy, and helping to build people up in a way that will be viewed favorably across the political spectrum, across the world and, most importantly, with today’s youth.