March 13 will mark Pope Francis' one-year anniversary at the Vatican. Some may call him the hippest and the most modern Pope of all time, but who is Pope Francis? What did he accomplish during his first year?
Before being named Pope Francis, 77 year-old Jorge Mario Bergoglio spent nearly his entire career at home in Argentina. He was the archbishop of Buenos Aires and reportedly had gotten the second-most votes in the 2005 papal election. Of course, he specializes in the kind of pastoral work that some would say is an essential skill for the next pope.
USA Today reports today that it was apparent from the beginning that the 266th pope is quite different. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor of England shares his thought about Pope Francis: "We all wanted change and reform," said O'Connor. "But I don't think any of us expected so much fresh air!"
Julian Coman reports that the Catholic Church may have found its savior after years of crisis. The leader of over 1 billion of the world’s Roman Catholics has transformed the reputation of the 2,000-year-old institution he’s leading.
The director of English programming at Vatican Radio, Sean Patrick Lovett, had come to Rome in 1977. Lovett has seen Pope Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II and Benedict XVI come and go. But he has never seen a pope like this before.
"In recent times it's felt like I've had to defend my faith, to defend the fact that I am a Catholic," said Lovett. "Now I've never been so proud to be a Catholic working in the Vatican. At the moment I am just enjoying the man. I'm drawing inspiration from him."
Pope Francis is not just “talking the talk” but also doing the “Walk the walk.” It was reported that he has ridden roughshod over the conventions of the Papacy. Instead of following what his predecessors have done by staying at the Apostolic Palace, Francis decided to stay at Casa Santa Marta guesthouse, which was his home during the conclave.
Pope Francis rejected the traditional red mozzetta (a short elbow-length sartorial vestment, a cape that covers the shoulders and buttoned over the frontal breast area) lined with ermine, and the red shoes to which Pope Benedict was so attached. Pope Francis went with basic black boots and a plain white cassock. Sounds like a pretty hip Pope.
Catholics have campaigned for social justice for some time, but the issue been buried beneath controversies over gay marriages and abortion. Liberal Democrat MP, Sarah Teather, feels that there is a sense of relief.
"It feels like there is a new sense of energy," said Teather. "Francis has helped create a following wind for people working behind the scenes to alleviate poverty and social exclusion. You can feel it when church leaders such as Cardinal Nichols speak. They have spoken like that before, but now there is a real connection and authority there."
That's what people are saying and so far it seems true, but it remains to be seen if the Pope can keep it up.