A puff of white smoke from a chimney on the roof of the Sistine Chapel, in Vatican City, delivered the news first on March 13, 2013. Next came an announcement made from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica: the Catholic Church had chosen a new pope. The news was met with cheers from the thousands who had gathered in rain-soaked St. Peter’s Square. “Habemus papam,” they chanted. “We have a Pope.” His name was Jorge Mario Bergoglio.
Before being elected Pope, Bergoglio (Ber-goal-io) was a cardinal in Buenos Aires, Argentina. To lead the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics he chose the name Pope Francis in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi, the Italian saint who chose a life of poverty. “I would like to thank you for your embrace,” he told followers as he greeted them for the first time. He asked people to pray for him. Bergoglio is the first Pope from South America and the first non-European pope in 1,300 years.
Jorge Mario Bergoglio was born December 17, 1936, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to Italian immigrant parents. His father worked as an accountant for the railway. His mother raised five children. In college, Bergoglio studied chemistry. After graduating, he entered the priesthood, becoming Cardinal of Buenos Aires in 2001. To Argentinians who saw him riding to and from work on the capital city’s crowded busses and subway, Bergoglio was a man of the people.
That same simplicity has marked his time as Pope. Instead of living in the papal palace, Bergoglio makes his home in a more modest Vatican apartment. And while past popes traveled in fancy cars, Pope Francis drives around Vatican City in a small, nearly 30-year-old vehicle given to him by a local priest. In his teachings, Pope Francis has spoken out against income inequality and urged followers to fight against poverty. He has stirred excitement among followers and brought new energy to the church.
For his strong leadership, humility, and concern for the poor, Pope Francis is a nominee for TFK's 2013 Person of the Year.
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