The papacy reaches the New World

(Once again The Guy offers a quick news posting without waiting for a question): The voting cardinals of Roman Catholicism achieved a surprisingly rapid decision on a new pope: Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina. The big news is that he is the first pope in history from the Western Hemisphere, as well as the first in a millennium from outside Europe. Bergoglio, who took the papal name Francis, was generally reported to be the runner-up in the last conclave that chose the now-retired Benedict XVI. Since he’s now 76, pre-conclave speculation figured that if the cardinals looked westward they would most likely want a younger man. But Bergoglio is a perfect bridge,  an ethnic Italian fluent in the Italian language that is used by the Vatican staff, and yet a leader from the Southern Hemisphere’s developing nations, where church expansion and future prospects overshadow the stagnant Catholicism of Europe. Bergoglio is also of interest as a Jesuit, whereas recent popes have come from the ranks of diocesan priests. More than a billion people claim the Catholic faith, so Francis undertakes a huge global responsibility along with a daunting agenda of challenges dealing with internal Vatican matters.

About Richard Ostling

Richard N. Ostling, a religion writer for the Associated Press, was formerly senior correspondent for Time magazine, where he wrote twenty-three cover stories and was the religion writer for many years. He has also covered religion for the CBS Radio Network and the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on PBS-TV.