Pope Francis is the new and the 266th Pope of one of the world’s largest religions, the Roman Catholic Church. His revolutionary ways have distinguished him from his predecessors and made him one of the most popular Popes of the modern times. But, his ways have also drawn wide criticism, even from within his own organization. The challenges in front of him are huge, which include child sexual abuse by the clergy and Vatican’s stance on the role of women in the church, homosexuality and contraception, among other critical subjects.
Pope Francis was born as Jorge Mario Bergoglio on December 17, 1936 in Bueno Aires, Argentina. He was the oldest child of Italian immigrants, Mario Jose Bergoglio and Regina Maria Sivori. They had left Italy, not because of economic reasons, but, to escape from the Benito Mussolini’s regime. Jorge did his primary education from Wilfrid Baron de Los Santos Angeles and thereafter did a chemical technician’s diploma Esuela Tecnica Industrial NO 27 Hipolito Yrigoyen. He worked a number of odd jobs that included being a laboratory technician, a janitor as well as a bar bouncer.
It was in 1955 that Berguglio joined the Inmaculada Concepcion Seminary, and then the Society of Jesus in 1958. It was at this time that the young Jorge may have taken a detour that may have changed the course of life for him. He was in love and wanted to marry the girl who lived next door to him in Argentina. However, nothing panned out and he went on to take up the priesthood. In 1960, he took his vows as Jesuit and also went on to study Philosophy in a seminary in San Miguel and also served as a teacher in different schools in Argentina. In 1969 Jorge Berguglio was ordained as a priest. Between 1992 and 2001, he climbed up the church’s ranks from the auxiliary Bishop of Buenos Aires to Cardinal. He spent a lot of time in the slums as a parish, and therefore, is aware of the plight of the poor and underprivileged. Most of the people residing in these places in Buenos Aires remember him as a man who gave them hope. He also participated in the Conclave that elected his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI.
His own election, however, was quite eventful. The Vatican was surprised by the resignation of Pope Benedict, something that had not occurred in 600 years of its history. The appointment of Jorge Berguglio in 2013, came at a time when the Church was ridden with problems that range from the issue of child sex abuse by the priests, its stand on the role of women, and so on.
Then there is the issue of the name that he too – Pope Francis – which also spurred a great deal of interest. He is the first Pope ever, to take the name Francis in the entire history of the Church. In the 13th century, Saint Francis, took over the charge of the Church that had stopped being in touch with its followers and was ridden with corruption. However, in a short period, he completely turned the tables and became a respected and loved figure for Christians. The similarity between the two religious leaders in uncanny. He has constantly impressed upon the need for the priest, nuns and the Church, in general, to not be trapped by power, but focus on tending to the poor and the needy. This has also appealed to the new crop of clerics, who draw inspiration from him.
The Pope has definitely ushered in a new era in Christianity and is bringing people closer to their faith. He might have faced criticism from certain quarters for diluting the Christian doctrine because of his open and liberal views. However, that does not stop the people from loving him. The height of his popularity can be gauged from the fact that the attendance at the weekly mass at the St. Peters Square has tripled since he took over as the Pope.