Whether or not one is a Catholic or not, the naming of a Pope is a big moment for all Christians everywhere. After all, there are 1.196 billion Catholics in the world according to the Pontifical Factbook from last year. And of course the Catholic Church is at a crucial juncture, what with the sexual scandals and financial scandals, and the big concern that there are not enough priests, not least because of the celibacy requirement. The interviews in Vatican square had a theme— we need a Pope who will lead the people forward into the 21rst century and make some reforms. Hopefully that will in happen.
Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina is the first Pope from outside of Europe, and almost half of all Catholics live in Central and South America, and the Hispanic part of the church is the fastest grow part of that church. He has chosen the name of Francis, as in Francis of Assisi, presumably because he has indeed followed the way of poverty and simplicity as a Cardinal. He road the bus, not the limo. He ate and lived simply. Unfortunately, he is also 76 years of age, and the report is he finished second to Cardinal Ratzinger at the last conclave.
Ideologically he would be seen as a moderate, but hopefully an agent of positive change. Almost his first words were to lead all those in Vatican square in the Lord’s prayer. It was a moving moment. Hardly ever does Christianity get this sort of coverage on all networks live. I would urge all of us to pray for this man. Who knows but that the Lord has big plans for his ministry? We shall see.
And now a bit of trivia… my new novel, set in Rome, which was written two years ago involves the Pontiff, the name I picked for the imaginary Pope in my story was Francis. Who knew I was a prophet? This is the first real Pope named Francis.