Writing up my short diary on Pope Francis brought out the sometimes startling variety of papal names. The last pope to use a new name was Lando (so you can see why Francis didn’t pick that one), but if you go further back the names get even more surprising. Take the poll – which of these would you pick for yourself?
As an Episcopalian, I am only an onlooker when it comes to papal elections. Nonetheless, this one is a doozy. Pope Francis (Jorge Mario Bergoglio) is the first pope from the Americas, the first non-European pope for over a millennium, the first pope to use a new name since Pope Lando (from the saeculum obscurum, also called the nadir of the papacy), and the first Jesuit pope.
He has a master’s degree in chemistry, taken before he changed his focus to theology.
Cardinal Bergoglio became known for personal humility, doctrinal conservatism and a commitment to social justice.A simple lifestyle contributed to his reputation for humility. He lived in a small apartment, rather than in the palatial bishop’s residence. He gave up his chauffeured limousine in favor of public transportation.
On the death of Pope John Paul II, Bergoglio was considered one of the papabile cardinals. He participated as a cardinal elector in the 2005 papal conclave that selected Pope Benedict XVI. It has been reported 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.
He has a strong record of support for the poor, but the predictably dismal one for human sexuality in various forms. One report of colluding with the junta does not seem to be backed up by any others.
Perhaps the most intriguing thing is his choice of the name Francis. It is Assisi, not Xavier, so it is not a tribute to the Jesuits but something else. St. Francis in his lifetime was a rather disruptive person; what does that augur for this pope?
It will be very interesting to see what develops.
UPDATE: This live blog by Andrew Sullivan is chock full of insights, too many to copy over – go take a look. Almost all heartening, apart from the human sexuality questions.