History was made today when Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected to the Papacy. A Jesuit intellectual, born in Buenos Aires, his life has been a humble advocacy for social outreach and betterment for the poor.
The first Pope from the Americas, his life has been devoid of the trappings associated with being the leader of the Catholic Bishops of Argentina. He chose to reside in a small flat instead of a palace. He chose to take public transportation instead of a private car and driver. He prepared his own meals and did his own shopping. The son of an Italian railroad worker and a part of a large family, his humble beginnings and Jesuit background molded the man who worked hard for the people he ministered to in an effort to enrich both their physical and spiritual lives. As a hands-on activist, he understands the problems and difficulties experienced in the real world. The new Pope, standing on the balcony dressed simply in white, is not a prince. He is a pastor in every sense of the word.
Whether Catholic or Protestant, Jewish or Muslim, nobody can argue that the global outreach of Catholic charities hasn't had a profound and lasting impact in the world; a long and steady reach in an effort to relieve poverty, hunger, illness and suffering. But the Catholic Church has been plagued for the last decade with sexual abuse and financial scandals, both handled atrociously by the last two Pontiffs. If Pope Francis takes the necessary steps to get rid of the offenders and steer the Church finances away from corruption and the accumulation of artwork, back toward helping those in need, Catholic charities will once again be identified with their own good works, not stigmatized by wrongdoing and secrecy. One can only hope.