The first Pope of the Americas Jorge Mario Bergoglio hails from Argentina. The 76-year-old Jesuit Archbishop of Buenos Aires is a prominent figure throughout the continent, yet remains a simple pastor who is deeply loved by his diocese, throughout which he has travelled extensively on the underground and by bus during the 15 years of his episcopal ministry.
“My people are poor and I am one of them”, he has said more than once, explaining his decision to live in an apartment and cook his own supper. He has always advised his priests to show mercy and apostolic courage and to keep their doors open to everyone. The worst thing that could happen to the Church, he has said on various occasions, “is what de Lubac called spiritual worldliness”, which means, “being self-centred”. And when he speaks of social justice, he calls people first of all to pick up the Catechism, to rediscover the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes. His project is simple: if you follow Christ, you understand that “trampling upon a person’s dignity is a serious sin”.
Despite his reserved character — his official biography consists of only a few lines, at least until his appointment as Archbishop of Buenos Aires — he became a reference point because of the strong stances he took during the dramatic financial crisis that overwhelmed the country in 2001.
He was born in Buenos Aires on 17 December 1936, the son of Italian immigrants. His father Mario was an accountant employed by the railways and his mother Regina Sivori was a committed wife dedicated to raising their five children. He graduated as a chemical technician and then chose the path of the priesthood, entering the Diocesan Seminary of Villa Devoto. On 11 March 1958 he entered the novitiate of the Society of Jesus. He completed his studies of the humanities in Chile and returned to Argentina in 1963 to graduate with a degree in philosophy from the Colegio de San José in San Miguel. From 1964 to 1965 he taught literature and psychology at Immaculate Conception College in Santa Fé and in 1966 he taught the same subject at the Colegio del Salvatore in Buenos Aires. From 1967-70 he studied theology and obtained a degree from the Colegio of San José.
On 13 December 1969 he was ordained a priest by Archbishop Ramón José Castellano. He continued his training between 1970 and 1971 at the University of Alcalá de Henares, Spain, and on 22 April 1973 made his final profession with the Jesuits. Back in Argentina, he was novice master at Villa Barilari, San Miguel; professor at the Faculty of Theology of San Miguel; consultor to the Province of the Society of Jesus and also Rector of the Colegio Máximo of the Faculty of Philosophy and Theology.
On 31 July 1973 he was appointed Provincial of the Jesuits in Argentina, an office he held for six years. He then resumed his work in the university sector and from 1980 to 1986 served once again as Rector of the Colegio de San José, as well as parish priest, again in San Miguel. In March 1986 he went to Germany to finish his doctoral thesis; his superiors then sent him to the Colegio del Salvador in Buenos Aires and next to the Jesuit Church in the city of Córdoba as spiritual director and confessor.
It was Cardinal Antonio Quarracino, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, who wanted him as a close collaborator. So, on 20 May 1992 Pope John Paul II appointed him titular Bishop of Auca and Auxiliary of Buenos Aires. On 27 May he received episcopal ordination from the Cardinal in the cathedral. He chose as his episcopal motto, miserando atque eligendo, and on his coat of arms inserted the ihs, the symbol of the Society of Jesus.
He gave his first interview as a bishop to a parish newsletter, Estrellita de Belém. He was immediately appointed Episcopal Vicar of the Flores district and on 21 December 1993 was also entrusted with the office of Vicar General of the Archdiocese. Thus it came as no surprise when, on 3 June 1997, he was raised to the dignity of Coadjutor Archbishop of Buenos Aires. Not even nine months had passed when, upon the death of Cardinal Quarracino, he succeeded him on 28 February 1998, as Archbishop, Primate of Argentina and Ordinary for Eastern-rite faithful in Argentina who have no Ordinary of their own rite.
Three years later at the Consistory of 21 February 2001, John Paul ii created him Cardinal, assigning him the title of San Roberto Bellarmino. He asked the faithful not to come to Rome to celebrate his creation as Cardinal but rather to donate to the poor what they would have spent on the journey. As Grand Chancellor of the Catholic University of Argentina, he is the author of the books: Meditaciones para religiosos (1982), Reflexiones sobre la vida apostólica (1992) and Reflexiones de esperanza (1992).
In October 2001 he was appointed General Relator to the 10th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Episcopal Ministry. This task was entrusted to him at the last minute to replace Cardinal Edward Michael Egan, Archbishop of New York, who was obliged to stay in his homeland because of the terrorist attacks on September 11th. At the Synod he placed particular emphasis on “the prophetic mission of the bishop”, his being a “prophet of justice”, his duty to “preach ceaselessly” the social doctrine of the Church and also “to express an authentic judgement in matters of faith and morals”.
All the while Cardinal Bergoglio was becoming ever more popular in Latin America. Despite this, he never relaxed his sober approach or his strict lifestyle, which some have defined as almost “ascetic”. In this spirit of poverty, he declined to be appointed as President of the Argentine Bishops’ Conference in 2002, but three years later he was elected and then, in 2008, reconfirmed for a further three-year mandate. Meanwhile in April 2005 he took part in the Conclave in which Pope Benedict XVI was elected.
As Archbishop of Buenos Aires — a diocese with more than three million inhabitants — he conceived of a missionary project based on communion and evangelization. He had four main goals: open and brotherly communities, an informed laity playing a lead role, evangelization efforts addressed to every inhabitant of the city, and assistance to the poor and the sick. He aimed to reevangelize Buenos Aires, “taking into account those who live there, its structure and its history”. He asked priests and lay people to work together. In September 2009 he launched the solidarity campaign for the bicentenary of the Independence of the country. Two hundred charitable agencies are to be set up by 2016. And on a continental scale, he expected much from the impact of the message of the Aparecida Conference in 2007, to the point of describing it as the “Evangelii Nuntiandi of Latin America”.
Until the beginning of the recent sede vacante, he was a member of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the Congregation for the Clergy, the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, the Pontifical Council for the Family and the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.
He was elected Supreme Pontiff on 13 March 2013.
2013 Notable Events
March 13, 2013: Is elected pope by a conclave of 115 cardinals and takes the name Francis. He becomes the first pope from the Americas, the first Jesuit, the 266th pope in the history of the Catholic Church, and the 265th successor of St. Peter.
March 14, 2013: Meets with the College of Cardinals
March 17, 2013: Delivers the first Angelus address of his papacy and greets the crowds from the papal apartment in St. Peter’s Square.
March 19, 2013: Presides at Mass to inaugurate his Petrine ministry on the Feast of St. Joseph, Patron of the Church in St. Peter’s Square.
March 23, 2013: Travels to Castel Gandolfo to meet for the first time with his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. This is the first time in history that the current pope meets with his predecessor, according to the Vatican.
March 28, 2013: Travels to Casal del Marmo Penitentiary Institute for Minors to celebrate the Lord’s Supper Mass on Holy Thursday. Washed the feet of ten boys and two girls stressing the need of service and humility.
April 4, 2013: Vatican sends a telegram expressing concern for the victims of severe weather that killed 56 people and left many more injured and homeless in Argentina.
April 5, 2013: Meets in audience with Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and recommends that the congregation acts decisively with regard to cases of sexual abuse.
April 8, 2013: Takes possession of the Cathedra of the Bishop of Rome at the Basilica of St. John Lateran.
April 10, 2013: Expresses nearness to and prays for the victims of the earthquake in Iran.
April 13, 2013: Appoints a group of cardinals, including Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, to advise him on church government and on a plan to revise the Apostolic Constitution on the Roman Curia.
April 15, 2013: Meets in audience with the Prime Minister of Spain, Mariano Rajoy Brey, who presents him a jersey of the country’s Soccer Team, current World Cup Champion.
April 16, 2013: Expresses profound grief for the attacks in Boston, Massachusetts, that killed 3 people and injured more than 180.
April 30, 2013: Receives in audience President Shimon Peres of Israel, and talks about peace in the Middle East.
May 1, 2013: On the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker, in his catechesis, notes that work is a fundamental element for the dignity of people.
May 2, 2013: Greets Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at his new permanent residence at the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery.
May 12, 2013: Presides at canonization Mass for Mexican religious sister Saint Guadalupe García Zavala, Saint Laura Montoya Upegui from Colombia, and Saint Antonio Primaldo and Companions, also known as the Martyrs of Otranto.
June 29, 2013: Releases his first encyclical letter Lumen Fidei (The Light of Faith).
July 6, 2013: Approves the sainthood and speeds up the canonization process for Blessed Pope John Paul II and Blessed Pope John XXIII.
July 8, 2013: Travels to Lampedusa. Speaks about the “Globalization of indifference” and prays for the immigrants who have sought refuge there, including those who have lost their lives in the attempt.
July 11, 2013: Issues Apostolic Letter on the Jurisdiction of Judicial Authorities of Vatican City State in Criminal Matters.
July 19, 2013: Establishes a committee of clerics and lay experts to improve the Vatican’s finances and transparency.
July 22-29, 2013: Makes first foreign apostolic journey to Brazil for World Youth Day.
July 24, 2013: Celebrates Mass at the Basilica of Our Lady of Aparecida, Brazil, during World Youth Day.
August 8, 2013: Issues Apostolic Letter for the countering of money laundering, the financing of terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
September 30, 2013: Presides over a public consistory and decreed that his predecessors, Blessed John Paul II and Blessed John XXIII will be inscribed in the book of saints on April 27, 2014, Divine Mercy Sunday.
October 7, 2013: Receives USCCB delegation headed by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, USCCB president, and representatives of the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops at the Vatican.
October 24, 2013: Suspends German Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst of Limburg, accused of spending millions of dollars on lavish renovations to his residence.
Nov. 9, 2013: Vatican issues a worldwide survey on social issues in advance of the third Extraordinary General Assembly of Bishops on the theme: “The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization.” The Synod is slated to take place October 5-19, 2014.
November 15, 2013: Issues Apostolic Letter approving the new statutes of the Financial Intelligence Authority.
November 24, 2013: Releases Evangelii Gaudium, (The Joy of the Gospel) his first apostolic exhortation on the proclamation of the Gospel in today’s world.
November 26, 2013: Receives Russian president Vladimir Putin at the Vatican.
December 11, 2013: Is named Time magazine’s person of the year.
December 17, 2013: Appoints Cardinal Donald Wuerl to the Congregation for Bishops.
December 24, 2013: Meets with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at the monastery Mater Ecclesia. Also visits children at a local hospital.
December 24-25, 2013: Celebrates his first Midnight Mass as head of the Roman Catholic Church at St. Peter’s Basilica.
2014 Notable Events
January 16, 2014: Receives in audience Cardinal Roger Mahony, archbishop emeritus of Los Angeles.
January 30, 2014: Receives a delegation from the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, at the Vatican on the occasion of the inauguration of the University’s “Rome Center.”
February 19, 2014: Appoints Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Archbishop William C. Skurla of the Byzantine Catholic Archeparchy of Pittsburgh, as members of the Congregation for Eastern Churches.
February 22, 2014: On the occasion of the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, 19 new cardinals from 12 countries around the world, including Asia, Africa and Latin America are officially installed at a special consistory for the creation of new cardinals.
February 24, 2014: Issues Apostolic Letter establishing a new coordinating agency for the economic and administrative affair of the Holy See and Vatican City State.
March 27, 2014: Receives in audience U.S. President Barack Obama at the Vatican.
April 3, 2014: Received Queen Elizabeth II at the Vatican.
April 12: Washes the feet of 12 patients during the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday.The Mass was celebrated in the Chapel of the Santa Maria della Provvidenza Centre, in Italy.
April 27, 2014: Presides Holy Mass and Canonization of Blesseds Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII from St. Peter’s Square.
April 28-30: Holds fourth meeting with the “Council of Cardinals” on Church governance and to develop a plan to revise the Apostolic Constitution on the Roman Curia.
May 24-26, 2014: Leads a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and meets with Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and the leaders of the Churches in Jerusalem to commemorate and renew the commitment to unity expressed 50 years earlier by Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople.
May 26, 2014: Prays for victims of the Holocaust and of terrorist attacks during a visit to the Yad Vashem Memorial in Jerusalem.Meets with Holocaust survivors and hears their personal stories.
June 8, 2014: Leads an unprecedented prayer service for peace in the Middle East. Israel’s President,
June 26, 2014: Vatican releases working document “The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization,” ahead of the Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.
June 29, 2014: Twenty-four recently installed archbishops from around the world, including Archbishop Leonard Blair of Hartford, Connecticut, receive the pallium at a special liturgy at the Vatican celebrated on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul.
July 7, 2014: Meets for the first time with six survivors of clerical sexual abuse at the Vatican and reiterates his message of zero tolerance, accountability and continued commitment to prevention.
July 14, 2014: Sends a message to the international community urging intervention and protection of minors in the humanitarian crisis of thousands of migrant children from Central America fleeing to the United States.
July 22, 2014: Names Fr. John W. Crossin, executive director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, as consultant to the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. He appointed three new members and 10 consultants.
July 27, 2014: Extends a plea to stop armed conflicts in the Middle East, Iraq and Ukraine as he recalled the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, observed July 28.
August 13-18, 2014: Apostolic journey to South Korea on the occasion of the 6th Asian Youth Day and the beatification of 123 Korean martyrs.
August 18, 2014: Sends a letter to Cardinal Justin Rigali, appointed as his Special Envoy for the celebration in the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis on August 24, 2014, marking the 250th anniversary of the founding of the City of St. Louis.
August 21, 2014: Expresses condolences over a phone call to the parents of American journalist James Foley, killed by the Islamic State group in Syria.
September 4, 2014: Holds an online, worldwide video conference with students of the Scholas Occurrentes social network in five continents.
September 20, 2014: Appoints Bishop Blase J. Cupich of Spokane, Washington, as Archbishop of Chicago.
September 21, 2014: Apostolic journey to Albania.
September 23, 2014: Message on the occasion of the celebration of the 101st World Day of Migrants and Refugees, 2015.
October 5-19, 2014: Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on “The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization.”
November 25, 2014: Addresses the members of the European Parliament and the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, France.
November 28, 2014: Issues Apostolic Letter on the occasion of the Year of Consecrated Life.
November 28-30, 2014: Apostolic journey to Turkey.
November 30, 2015: Issues his message for the opening of the Year of Consecrated Life.
December 2, 2014: Joined by Anglican, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu religious leaders, Pope Francis signs a jointFaith Leaders’ Universal Declaration Against Slavery on the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery.
December 9, 2014: Message on the occasion of the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons.
December 23, 2014: Letter to persecuted Christians in the Middle East.
December 25, 2014: Delivers his message Urbi et Orbi.
2015 Notable Events
January 12-19, 2015: Apostolic journey to Sri-Lanka and the Philippines. Canonizes St. Joseph Vaz, Sri Lanka’s first saint.
February 14, 2015: 20 new cardinals from countries around the world, including Asia and Latin America are officially installed at a special consistory for the creation of new cardinals.
April 6, 2015: Celebrates Mass of the Lord’s Supper in the Rebibbia prison in Rome and washes the feet of 12 detainees.
May 23, 2015: Sent letter to the Archbishop of San Salvador on the occasion of the beatification of Archbishop Óscar Arnulfo Romero.
June 6, 2015: Apostolic visit to Sarajevo (Bosnia).
June 18, 2015: Issued Encyclical Letter Laudato si’ on care for our common home.
July 5-12, 2015: Apostolic journey to Paraguay, Ecuador and Bolivia
September 8, 2015: Issues Apostolic Letters on the reform of canonical procedure for the annulment of marriage in the Code of Canon Law.
September 19-27, 2015: Apostolic Journey to Cuba and to the United States. Pope Francis addresses Congress and the United Nations.