He is the first Pope…. to be a Jesuit, from the Americas and that has taken the name Francis.
He speaks….. Spanish, Italian, English, French and German
He is known to….. take the bus and subway, cook his own meals, have strong devotion to Our Lady and love for the poor, loves soccer and the tango.
Bio / Early Life
Jorge Mario Bergoglio was born in Flores, a barrio of Buenos Aires. He was the eldest of five children of Mario José Bergoglio, an Italian immigrant railway worker born in Portacomaro (Province of Asti) in Italy’s Piedmont region, and his wife Regina María Sívori, a housewife born in Buenos Aires to a family of northern Italian (Piedmontese-Genoese) origin. Bergoglio’s sister María Elena told reporters decades later that her father often said that “the advent of fascism was the reason that really pushed him to leave” Italy. She is the pope’s only living sibling.
Bergoglio has been a supporter of the San Lorenzo de Almagro football club since his childhood. Bergoglio is also a fan of the films of Tita Merello and of neorealism and of tango dancing, with an “intense fondness” for the traditional music of Argentina and Uruguay known as the milonga.
As a sixth-grade pupil, Bergoglio attended Wilfrid Barón de los Santos Ángeles, a Don Bosco Salesian school in Ramos Mejía in Greater Buenos Aires.
He attended the technical secondary school Escuela Nacional de Educación Técnica N° 27 Hipólito Yrigoyen and graduated with a chemical technician’s diploma. He worked for a few years in that capacity in the foods section at Hickethier-Bachmann Laboratory. In the only known health crisis of his youth, at the age of 21 he suffered from life-threatening pneumonia and three cysts and had part of a lung removed shortly afterwards.
Bergoglio studied at the archdiocesan seminary Inmaculada Concepción in Villa Devoto, Buenos Aires City, and after three years entered the Society of Jesus as a novice on 11 March 1958. Bergoglio has said that as a young seminarian, he “was dazzled by a girl I met at an uncle’s wedding”, so much so that he “could not pray for over a week” because he could not help thinking of her, and so he “had to rethink what I was doing”. As a Jesuit novice he studied humanities in Santiago, Chile. At the conclusion of his noviciate in the Society of Jesus, Bergoglio officially became a Jesuit on 12 March 1960, when he made the religious profession of the initial, temporary vows of a member of the Order.
In 1960, Bergoglio obtained a licentiate in philosophy from the Colegio Máximo San José in San Miguel, Buenos Aires Province; in 1964 and 1965, he taught literature and psychology at the Colegio de la Inmaculada, a high school in theProvince of Santa Fe, Argentina, and in 1966 he taught the same courses at the Colegio del Salvador in Buenos Aires City.
In 1967, Bergoglio finished his theological studies and was ordained to the priesthood on 13 December 1969, by Archbishop Ramón José Castellano. He attended the Facultades de Filosofía y Teología de San Miguel (Philosophical and Theological Faculty of San Miguel), a seminary in San Miguel. He served as the Master of novices for the Province there and became a professor of theology.
Father Bergoglio completed his final stage of spiritual formation as a Jesuit, tertianship, at Alcalá de Henares, Spain, and took his perpetual vows in the Society of Jesus on 22 April 1973. He was named Provincial Superior of the Society of Jesus in Argentina on 31 July 1973 and served until 1979. After the completion of his term of office, in 1980 he was named therector of the Philosophical and Theological Faculty of San Miguel in San Miguel, and served in that capacity until 1986. He spent several months at the Sankt Georgen Graduate School of Philosophy and Theology in Frankfurt, Germany, while considering possible dissertation topics, before returning to Argentina to serve as a confessor and spiritual director to the Jesuit community in Córdoba. In Germany he saw the painting Mary Untier of Knots in Augsburg and brought a copy of the painting to Argentina where it has become an important Marian devotion.
Before becoming a bishop, Bergoglio was mentored by Salesian Ukrainian Greek Catholic priest Stefan Czmil and while at the Salesian school, often woke up hours before his classmates so that he could celebrate Mass with Czmil.
Bergoglio was named Auxiliary Bishop of Buenos Aires in 1992 and was ordained on 27 June 1992 as Titular Bishop of Auca, with Cardinal Antonio Quarracino, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, serving as principal consecrator. On 3 June 1997, Bergoglio was appointed Coadjutor Archbishop of Buenos Aires with right of automatic succession. He chose as his episcopal motto Miserando atque eligendo. It is drawn from Bede’s homily on Matthew 9:9-13: “because he saw him through the eyes of mercy and chose him”.
Upon Quarracino’s death on 28 February 1998, Bergoglio became Metropolitan Archbishop of Buenos Aires. In that role, Bergoglio created new parishes and restructured the archdiocese administrative offices, led pro-life initiatives, and created a commission on divorces. One of Bergoglio’s major initiatives as archbishop was to increase the Church’s presence in the slums of Buenos Aires. Under his leadership the number of priests assigned to work in the slums doubled.
On 6 November 1998, while remaining Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he was named ordinary for those Eastern Catholics in Argentina who lacked a prelate of their own rite. Archbishop Shevchuk has said that Bergoglio understands the liturgy, rites, and spirituality of his Greek Catholic Church and always “took care of our Church in Argentina” as ordinary for Eastern Catholics during his time as Archbishop of Buenos Aires.
In 2000, Bergoglio was the only church official to reconcile with Jerónimo Podestá, a former bishop who had been defrockedas a priest after opposing the military dictatorship in 1972, and he defended Podestá’s wife from Vatican attacks on their marriage. That same year, Bergoglio said the Argentine Catholic Church needed “to put on garments of public penance for the sins committed during the years of the dictatorship” in the 1970s, the years known as the Dirty War.
Bergoglio made it his custom to celebrate the Holy Thursday ritual washing of feet in “a jail, a hospital, a home for the elderly or with poor people”. One year he washed the feet of newborn children and pregnant women. In his first Holy Thursday as pope, Francis continued this custom, visiting a jail in Rome where he washed the feet of twelve inmates aged 14 to 21, among them two women; the first woman was a Serbian Muslim, the second was an Italian Catholic.
In 2007, just two days after Benedict XVI issued new rules for using the liturgical forms that preceded the Second Vatican Council, Cardinal Bergoglio was one of the first bishops in the world to respond by instituting a Tridentine Mass in Buenos Aires. It was celebrated weekly.
On 8 November 2005, Bergoglio was elected president of the Argentine Episcopal Conference for a three-year term (2005–08). He was reelected to another three-year term on 11 November 2008. He remained a member of that Commission’s permanent governing body, president of its committee for the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina, and a member of its liturgy committee for the care of shrines.
While head of the Argentine Catholic bishops’ conference, Bergoglio issued a collective apology for his church’s failure to protect people from the Junta during the Dirty War.
When he turned 75 in December 2011, Bergoglio submitted his resignation as Archbishop of Buenos Aires to Pope Benedict XVI as required by Canon Law.
At the consistory of 21 February 2001, Archbishop Bergoglio was created a cardinal by Pope John Paul II with the title ofcardinal-priest of San Roberto Bellarmino, a church served by Jesuits and named for one. When he travelled to Rome for the ceremony, he and his sister María Elena visited the village in northern Italy where their father was born.
As cardinal, Bergoglio was appointed to five administrative positions in the Roman Curia. He was member of theCongregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the Congregation for the Clergy, the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, the Pontifical Council for the Family and the Commission for Latin America.
Later that year, when Cardinal Edward Egan returned to New York following the September 11 attacks, Bergoglio replaced him as relator (recording secretary) in the Synod of Bishops and, according to the Catholic Herald, created “a favourable impression as a man open to communion and dialogue”.
Cardinal Bergoglio became known for personal humility, doctrinal conservatism and a commitment to social justice. Asimple lifestyle contributed to his reputation for humility. He lived in a small apartment, rather than in the elegant bishop’s residence in the suburb of Olivos. He took public transportation and cooked his own meals. He limited his time in Rome to “lightning visits”.
On the death of Pope John Paul II, Bergoglio attended his funeral. He was considered one of the papabile cardinals. He participated as a cardinal elector in the 2005 papal conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI. In the National Catholic Reporter John L. Allen, Jr. reported that Bergoglio was a frontrunner in the 2005 Conclave. In September 2005, the Italian magazine Limes published claims that Bergoglio had been the runner-up and main challenger to Cardinal Ratzinger at that conclave and that he had received 40 votes in the third ballot, but fell back to 26 at the fourth and decisive ballot. The claims were based on a diary purportedly belonging to an anonymous cardinal who had been present at the conclave. According to Italian journalist Andrea Tornielli, this number of votes had no precedents for a Latin American papabile. La Stampareported that Bergoglio was in close contention with Ratzinger during the election, until he made an emotional plea that the cardinals should not vote for him. According to Tornielli, Bergoglio requested made this request to prevent the conclave from delaying too much in the election of a pope.
As a cardinal, Bergoglio was associated with Communion and Liberation, a Catholic evangelical lay movement of the type known as associations of the faithful. He has sometimes made appearances at the annual gathering known as the Rimini Meeting held during the late summer months in Italy.
In 2005, Cardinal Bergoglio authorized the request for beatification—the first step towards sainthood—for six members of the Pallottine community murdered in 1976. At the same time, Bergoglio ordered an investigation into the murders themselves, which had been widely blamed on the military regime that ruled Argentina from 1976 to 1983.
Elected at the age of 76, Francis is reported to be in good health, and his doctors have stated that his missing lung tissue (which was removed in 1957) does not have a significant impact on his health. The only concern would be decreased respiratory reserve if he had a respiratory infection. In the past, one attack of sciatica in 2007 prevented him from attending a consistory and delayed his return to Argentina for several days.
As pope his manner is less formal than that of his predecessors: a style that news coverage has referred to as “no frills,” noting that it is “his common touch and accessibility that is proving the greatest inspiration.” For example, on the night of his election he took the bus back to his hotel with the cardinals, rather than be driven in the papal car. The next day he visited Cardinal Jorge María Mejía in the hospital and chatted with patients and staff. At his first media audience, the Friday after his election, the Pope said of Saint Francis of Assisi: “The man who gives us this spirit of peace, the poor man,” and he added “How I would like a poor Church, and for the poor”.
In March 2013 a new song was dedicated to Francis and released in Brazilian Portuguese, European Portuguese and Italian, titled Come Puoi (“How You Can”). Also in March, Pablo Buera, the mayor of La Plata, Argentina, announced that the city had renamed a section of a street leading up to a local cathedral Papa Francisco. There are already efforts to name other streets after him, as well as a school where he studied as a child.
In addition to his native Spanish, Francis is conversant in Latin (the official language of the Holy See), Italian (the official language of Vatican City and the “everyday language” of the Holy See), German, French, Portuguese, English, Ukrainian, and Piedmontese. He is “most comfortable” in Spanish, but is also “completely fluent” in Italian.
Bergoglio was elected pope on 13 March 2013, the second day of the 2013 papal conclave, taking the papal name Francis. Francis was elected on the fifth ballot of the conclave. The Habemus Papam was delivered by Cardinal protodeacon Jean-Louis Tauran.
Instead of accepting his cardinals’ congratulations while seated on the Papal throne, Francis received them standing, reportedly an immediate sign of a changing approach to formalities at the Vatican. During his first appearance as pontiff on the balcony of Saint Peter’s Basilica, he wore a white cassock, not the red, ermine-trimmed mozzetta used by the previous Popes. He also wore the same iron pectoral cross that he had worn as Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires, rather than the gold one worn by his predecessors.
After being elected and choosing his name, his first act was bestowing the Urbi et Orbi blessing to thousands of pilgrims gathered in St Peter’s Square. Before blessing the pilgrims, he asked those in St. Peter’s Square to pray for the pope emeritus, Benedict XVI and for himself.
At his first audience on 16 March 2013, Francis told journalists that he had chosen the name in honour of Saint Francis of Assisi, and had done so because he was especially concerned for the well-being of the poor. He explained that, as it was becoming clear during the conclave voting that he would be elected the new pontiff, the Brazilian Cardinal Cláudio Hummeshad embraced him and whispered, “Don’t forget the poor”, which had made Bergoglio think of the saint. Bergoglio had previously expressed his admiration for St Francis, explaining that “He brought to Christianity an idea of poverty against the luxury, pride, vanity of the civil and ecclesiastical powers of the time. He changed history.”
Author and Vatican reporter John Allen remarked that the choice of the name Francis sent a clear message to the Church about the new Pope’s intention to let “the church of the spirit, a humble and simple community of equals with a special love for the least of this world…. shine through”. This is the first time that a pope has been named Francis and the first time sincePope Lando’s 913–914 reign that a serving pope held a name not used by a predecessor.
Francis also said that some cardinal-electors had jokingly suggested to him that he should choose either “Adrian”, sincePope Adrian VI had been a reformer of the church, or “Clement” as “payback” to Pope Clement XIV who had suppressed the Jesuit order.
Pope Francis held his Papal inauguration on 19 March 2013 in St Peter’s Square in the Vatican. He celebrated Mass in the presence of various political and religious leaders from around the world. In his homily Pope Francis focused on theSolemnity of Saint Joseph, the liturgical day on which the Mass was celebrated.
Francis elected not to live in the official papal residence in the Apostolic Palace, but to remain in the Vatican guest house. He was upgraded to a suite in which he can receive visitors and hold meetings. He is the first pope since Pope Pius X to live outside the papal apartments. Francis plans to appear at the window of the Apostolic Palace for the Sunday Angelus.
On the first Maundy Thursday following his election, Francis washed and kissed the feet of 12 juvenile offenders, ages 14–21, at Rome’s Casal del Marmo detention facility, telling them the ritual of foot washing is a sign that he is at their service. He told them to “Help one another. This is what Jesus teaches us”. According to church experts, this was the first time that a pope has included women in this ritual (there were 2 women and 10 men). Canon lawyer Edward Peters noted that this was a break with canon law, although not with any “divine directive”. The twelve included two Muslims, including one of the two women. Before leaving, the pope told the detainees, “Do not let yourselves be robbed of hope”.
Raymond Arroyo, EWTN Global Catholic Radio Network news director, stated that it is clear that Francis “is intent on bringing the message of the church out to the world,” and wants priests to work “amid the people in the muck of life”. Arroyo said that when Francis told priests on Maundy Thursday “to go look for the lost sheep”, the message was that priests should be like shepherds who are so close to their flock that they “smell like their sheep”.
On March 31, 2013, Francis used his first Easter homily to make a plea for peace throughout the world, specifically mentioning the Mid-East, Africa, and North and South Korea. He also spoke out against those who give in to “easy gain” in a world filled with greed, and made a plea for humanity to become a better guardian of creation by protecting the environment. He said that “We ask the risen Jesus, who turns death into life, to change hatred into love, vengeance into forgiveness, war into peace.” Although the Vatican had prepared greetings in 65 languages, Francis chose not to read them. According to the Vatican, the pope “at least for now, feels at ease using Italian, the everyday language of the Holy See”.
On April 3, 2013, during the weekly general audience in St Peter’s Basilica, Francis spoke out about the “fundamental importance” of women in the Roman Catholic Church, stressing that they have a special role in terms of spreading the faith, and that they were the “first witnesses” of the resurrection. According to a report from Vatican Radio, this is the third time in one week that the pope has included the subject of women in the church in his addresses. According to other news reports, many Catholic women, including a group of American Catholic women and nuns who made a pilgrimage to Rome to make requests that included allowing women to be deacons, are hopeful that under the leadership of Pope Francis, the church will provide women with new opportunities for leadership roles.
In both his first homily as Pope and in his first address to the cardinals, Francis talked about walking in the presence of Jesus Christ and stressed the church mission to announce him. In the audience with the cardinals, he emphasized the concept of “encounter with Jesus”:
Stimulated by the Year of Faith, all together, pastors and faithful, we will make an effort to respond faithfully to the eternal mission: to bring Jesus Christ to humanity, and to lead humanity to an encounter with Jesus Christ: the Way, the Truth and the Life, truly present in the Church and, at the same time, in every person. This encounter makes us become new men in the mystery of Grace, provoking in our hearts the Christian joy that is a hundredfold that given us by Christ to those who welcome Him into their lives.
In his homily, he stressed that “if we do not profess Jesus Christ, things go wrong. We may become a charitable NGO, but not the Church, the Bride of the Lord.” He went on to teach that “When we do not profess Jesus Christ, we profess the worldliness of the devil… when we profess Christ without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord, we are worldly”.
The theme of rejecting “spiritual worldliness”, has been described as a “leitmotif” of his teachings even before he became Pope. Understanding this worldliness as “putting oneself at the center”, he said that it is the “greatest danger for the Church, for us, who are in the Church”.
Francis preached on his first visit to a parish that “this is the the Lord’s most powerful message: mercy.” His motto,Miserando atque eligendo, is about Jesus’ mercy towards sinners. The phrase is taken from a homily of St Bede, who commented that Jesus “saw the tax collector and, because he saw him through the eyes of mercy and chose him, he said to him: ‘Follow me'” (italics added to refer to English translation of the Latin motto).
The motto is a reference to the moment he changed his life when he was 17 years old and found his vocation to the priesthood. He started a day of student celebrations by going to confession. “A strange thing happened to me…It was a surprise, the astonishment of an encounter…This is the religious experience: the astonishment of encountering someone who was waiting for you… God is the one who seeks us first.”
As cardinal he viewed morality in the context of an encounter with Christ that is “triggered” by mercy”: “the privileged locus of the encounter is the caress of the mercy of Jesus Christ on my sin.” And thus, he says, a new morality—a correspondence to mercy—is born. He views this morality as a “revolution”: it is “not a titanic effort of the will”, but “simply a response” to a “surprising, unforeseeable, and ‘unjust’ mercy”. Morality is “not a ‘never falling down’ but an ‘always getting up again.'”
The Gospel reading for the Sunday he was scheduled to give his first public address as Pope was on Jesus’ forgiveness of the adulteress woman. This allowed him to discuss ideas such as: God never wearies of forgiving us; hearing the word mercy, this word changes everything; mercy is beautiful; never tire in asking for forgiveness.
Another theme Pope Francis emphasized in his first address to the cardinals is the new evangelisation. He talked about “the certainty that the Holy Spirit gives His Church, with His powerful breath, the courage to persevere and to search for new ways to evangelise.”
It is a theme he has repeated in other occasions, specifically in his biography, where he spoke about “transforming pastoral modes” and “revising the internal life of the church so as to go out to the faithful people of God,” with “great creativity.” He observed that church cannot be passively waiting for clientele among people who are no longer evangelised and who “will not get near structures and old forms that do not respond to their expectations and sensibilities.” He asked for pastoral conversion from a church that regulates the faith to a church that transmits and facilitates the faith.
He said that the heart of the mission is summarized in this: “if one remains in the Lord one goes out of oneself… Fidelity is always a change, a blossoming, a growth.” Key to evangelisation is the role of the laity who should avoid the “problem” of being clericalized as their “baptism alone should suffice”.
At a meeting of Latin American bishops in 2007 Bergoglio said “[w]e live in the most unequal part of the world, which has grown the most, yet reduced misery the least” and that “[t]he unjust distribution of goods persists, creating a situation of social sin that cries out to Heaven and limits the possibilities of a fuller life for so many of our brothers”. On 30 September 2009, Bergoglio spoke at a conference organized by the Argentina City Postgraduate School (EPOCA) at the Alvear Palace Hotel titled “Las deudas sociales de nuestro tiempo” (“The Social Debts of Our Time”) in which he quoted the 1992 “Documento de Santo Domingo” by the Latin American Episcopal Conference, saying “extreme poverty and unjust economic structures that cause great inequalities” are violations of human rights. He went on to describe social debt as “immoral, unjust and illegitimate”.
During a 48-hour public servant strike in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Bergoglio observed the differences between “poor people who are persecuted for demanding work, and rich people who are applauded for fleeing from justice”. In 2002, during an economic crisis, Bergoglio harshly criticized those in power, saying, “Let’s not tolerate the sad spectacle of those who no longer know how to lie and contradict themselves to hold onto their privileges, their rapaciousness, and their ill-earned wealth.” During a May 2010 speech in Argentina regarding the poor, he directed his message to the wealthy by saying: “You avoid taking into account the poor. We have no right to duck down, to lower the arms carried by those in despair. We must reclaim the memory of our country who has a mother, recover the memory of our Mother”. In 2011, Bergoglio stated: “There is a daily anesthesia that this city knows how to use very well, and it is called bribery, and with this anesthesia the conscience is numbed. Buenos Aires is a bribe-taking city.”
In this city, slavery is the order of the day in various forms, in this city workers are exploited in sweatshops and, if immigrants, are deprived of the opportunity to get out. In this city, there are kids on the streets for years……. The city failed and continues to fail in the attempt to free them from this structural slavery that is homelessness.
In line with the Catholic Church’s efforts to care for AIDS victims, in 2001 he visited a hospice and he washed and kissed the feet of 12 AIDS patients.
As Cardinal, Bergoglio’s views regarding the celibacy of priests were recorded in the book ‘On Heaven and Earth’, a record of conversations conducted with a Buenos Aires rabbi. He commented that celibacy “is a matter of discipline, not of faith. It can change” but added: “For the moment, I am in favor of maintaining celibacy, with all its pros and cons, because we have ten centuries of good experiences rather than failures […] Tradition has weight and validity.” He noted that “in the Byzantine, Ukranian, Russian, and Greek Catholic Churches […] the priests can be married, but the bishops have to be celibate”.He said that many of those in Western Catholicism who are pushing for more discussion about the issue do so from a position of “pragmatism”, based on a loss of manpower. He states that “If, hypothetically, Western Catholicism were to review the issue of celibacy, I think it would do so for cultural reasons (as in the East), not so much as a universal option.” He emphasized that, in the meantime, the rule must be strictly adhered to, and any priest who cannot obey it “has to leave the ministry”.
National Catholic Reporter Vatican analyst Thomas Reese, also a Jesuit, called Bergoglio’s use of “conditional language” regarding the rule of celibacy “remarkable”. He said that phrases like “for the moment” and “for now” are “not the kind of qualifications one normally hears when bishops and cardinals discuss celibacy”.
In 2007, as Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Bergoglio presented the final version of a joint statement of the bishops of Latin America – the “Aparecida Document” – upon its approval by Pope Benedict XVI. Bergoglio denounced what he characterized as a cultural tolerance of child abuse. He spoke strongly against the abuse of children as “demographic terrorism” and decried their exploitation saying, “Children are mistreated, and are not educated or fed. Many are made into prostitutes and exploited.” In 2011, Bergoglio condemned child trafficking and sex slavery in Buenos Aires:
In this city, there are many girls who stop playing with dolls to enter the dump of a brothel because they were stolen, sold, betrayed … In this city, women and girls are kidnapped, and they are subjected to use and abuse of their body; they are destroyed in their dignity. The flesh that Jesus assumed and died for is worth less than the flesh of a pet. A dog is cared for better than these slaves of ours, who are kicked, who are broken.
Bergoglio also encouraged his clergy and laity “to ardently defend the culture of life”, by opposing both abortion andeuthanasia, and opposed the free distribution of contraceptives in Argentina, as proposed by the Kirchner government. The Aparecida Document links worthiness to receive the Eucharist to compliance and acceptance of Church teaching against abortion and euthanasia:
We hope that legislators, heads of government, and health professionals, conscious of the dignity of human life and of the rootedness of the family in our peoples, will defend and protect it from the abominable crimes of abortion and euthanasia; that is their responsibility … We should commit ourselves to “eucharistic coherence”, that is, we should be conscious that people cannot receive Holy Communion and at the same time act or speak against the commandments, in particular when abortion, euthanasia, and other serious crimes against life and family are facilitated. This responsibility applies particularly to legislators, governors, and health professionals.
He further denounced a “culture of discarding” the elderly and treating them as if they are disposable and worthless by virtue of their advanced age.