CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 16 February 2019

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Pope Francis brings high pedigree to the job


HONG KONG (SE): “Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio sj, archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, ordinary for Eastern-rite faithful in Argentina who lack an ordinary of their own rite, was born on 17 December 1936 in Buenos Aires,” the official biography of the newly-elected pope released by the Vatican press office begins.

He became the first pope from Latin America on March 13. Born to Italian parents, he, like many people in Argentina, is ethnically European, but he grew up, received his faith, nurtured and matured it in the turbulent culture of the Latin American continent far from what is at its closest point of association, the old country in Europe.

While up until 714 there had probably been 11 non-European popes, coming from what is today called Israel, Syria, Libya, North Africa and Turkey; it is almost a 1,300 year-gap from Pope Gregory III to Pope Francis.

The first Jesuit pope comes to the Chair of Peter with an impressive pedigree, both in terms of intellectual pursuit, Church leadership and pastoral experience.

Holding degrees in chemical engineering and philosophy, as well as a doctorate in theology, he was archbishop of a large diocese, president the bishops’ conference and has held a responsible position at a world synod of bishops.

Apart from being archbishop of Buenos Aires, which has a Catholic population of 2.5 million spread across 182 parishes, he was the Jesuit provincial superior of the Argentine province from 1973 to 1979 and then rector of the Philosophical and Theological Faculty of San Miguel for a further six years.

He also has experience as a parish priest, as the pastor of the Patriarca San José parish in the diocese of San Miguel. He was then a chaplain at the University of El Salvador in Buenos Aires and later Cordoba.

On 20 May 1992, Pope John Paul II appointed him as the auxiliary bishop of Buenos Aires, becoming coadjutor in 1997 and finally succeeding Antonio Cardinal Quarracino on 28 February 1988 as archbishop.

At the Tenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops held in Rome in October 2001, he was appointed the adjunct realtor general and from 2005 to 2011 was the president of the Bishops’ Conference of Argentina.

In February 2001, he was elevated to cardinal by Pope John Paul and was a member of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, the Congregation for Clergy and the Institute of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, the Pontifical Council for the Family and the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.

The young Bergoglio joined the Society of Jesus in 1958 in Argentina, but was sent to Chile to finish his studies prior to ordination to the priesthood on 13 December 1969.

As a Jesuit scholastic (seminarian), he taught literature and psychology at Immacolata College in Santa Fe and later at the University of El Salvador.

After completing his tertianship in Spain, he pronounced perpetual vows on 22 April 1973.

He then became the novice master at Villa Varilari in San Miguel, where he had himself studied as a student, teaching theology until he became the provincial of the whole society in Argentina.

On March 13 he was elected pope, taking the name Francis.


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