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Inside the Catholic Church

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Pope Francis I: A First on Many Counts

March 13th 2013

Pope Francis1 March 2013

It was a poised Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina who emerged from the second day of voting by the conclave of cardinals as the new successor of St. Peter as Pope of Rome. In a number of firsts, he has taken the name Francis: the name of the beloved patron saint of Italy.

He is the first Pope to take that name, and also first Latin American, and first non-European in more than 1000 years, to occupy the See of St. Peter. He is also the first member of the Jesuit order to become leader of the world's 1 billion Catholics.

Speaking in Italian, the 77-year-old prelate asked the tens of thousands of faithful assembled in St. Peter's Square to not only pray for him but also for his immediate predecessor, Pope emeritus Benedict XVI who remains in retirement at the Castel Gandolfo retreat outside of Rome.

Pope Francis emerged on the papal balcony overlooking the historic square after 8 PM as thousands cheered and waved the flags of their respective nations. In an act of singular humility, Pope Francis asked that the faithful first pray for him as he bowed to receive their blessing. Thousands of people responded in silence as they prayed for the new leader. The former archbishop of Buenos Aires then blessed them, wearing the same stola used by both Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

Observers expressed surprise at the speed with which the cardinal electors chose the new Pope, but reflected that since almost half of the world's Catholics now reside in Latin America, that naming a prelate from the region could serve to shore up support for the worldwide church.

Cutting Edge Senior Correspondent Martin Barillas also edits Speroforum.com


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