Progressio welcomes the election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, as the 266th Pope.
Pope Francis, as he will now be known, is the first Jesuit and first Cardinal from Latin America to be elected to the Papacy. He is also the first Pope to choose the name Francis, reflecting the gentle natured patron saint of the environment who is known for his simple lifestyle, humility and kindness. His choice of name echoes St Francis Xavier too, also a Jesuit, patron saint of the missions.
In 2009 Pope Francis, then Archbishop of Buenos Aires, called for an "ethical response to solve the problem of social debt" during a speech in which he also said that, "extreme poverty and the unjust economic structures that give rise to great inequalities violate human rights."
Mark Lister, Progressio's Chief Executive, has said: “We celebrate the election of a Pope from Latin America who is known to be a 'man of the people' and one who will prioritise the Catholic values of compassion for and solidarity with poor and marginalised people that Progressio is founded on.
"This choice of Pope by the Cardinals may signal a response to, and acknowledgement of, the growing number of Catholics in poorer countries and of the need to address the issues of social justice that Pope Francis has been so vocal about. We are hopeful that this Pope will also pursue a commitment to prioritising the needs of women who, according to UN estimates, account for up to two thirds of the world's poorest people."
After serving as Bishop of Buenos Aires for 21 years Pope Francis will now lead the world's 1.2 billion Catholics, 40% of whom reside in his native Latin America.
Although this choice of Pontiff came as a surprise to many, Pope Francis has been a Cardinal for 11 years and is known to be a very humble man, often travelling by public transport around Buenos Aires, as well as highly intellectual.
76 year old Pope Francis is a champion of social justice, siding with people living in poverty, conservative on issues such as the sanctity of life and said to be wary of media attention. He will be officially installed as the 266th Bishop of Rome at a special Mass on Tuesday 19 March at St Peter’s in Rome where many more Catholics from around the world are still flocking to join the hundreds of thousands of people who had gathered ahead of the conclave.
Photo: Pope Francis I greets people gathered in St Peter's square after being elected on 13 March 2013 © news.va