Ever since Pope Francis was named the new pope yesterday, many are asking, “Who is he?” Pope Francis, formerly known as Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, was almost pope in the last papal conclave, but his name was not whispered around in this one. This decision has been a surprise to many, and the public has been watching the new pope with a critical eye.
When the Pope left his hotel in Rome, media noted that he picked up his luggage and paid the hotel bill himself. Actions such as this one reinforce his public image of being a pope that lives among the people. In Buenos Aires, he criticized Catholic authorities for hypocrisy. Pope Francis himself would take the bus, cook his own meals, and visit the poor. When priests would not baptize babies of single mothers, Pope Francis criticized them for the clericalization the church and separating “the people of God from salvation.”
However, how will Pope Francis deal with the difficult problems in the Catholic church today? He has also been highly criticized for not challenging a dictatorship in Argentina that led to murders and missing babies. During that time, he was accused of being silent about human rights violations in order to maintain the image of the Catholic Church.
Will Pope Francis address the issues of the Catholic Church today? Will his papacy bring in reform or will it just pass by unnoticed in history? How will being a Jesuit and Latin American pope influence the papacy?
Father Thomas Rausch, Professor of Catholic Theology at Loyola Marymount University
Cathy Lynn Grossman, reports on religion, spirituality, and ethics for USA Today