Argentina's Jorge Mario Bergoglio elected Pope
The 76-year-old was 'surprise choice', but Pope Francis I will lead with an 'iron grip'
CARDINAL Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina has been elected Pope, an appointment that took many Catholics by surprise.
Bergoglio, 76, will be known as Pope Francis I. He is the first Latin American and the first Jesuit to be elected leader of the Catholic Church. His selection by the 115 Cardinals gathered in the Sistine Chapel on the second day of the conclave, took many commentators by surprise. When he was announced as the new Pope, the massive crowd that had gathered in front of St Peter's Basilica fell silent. Many were clearly unfamiliar with his name.
The BBC agrees the Archbishop of Buenos Aires is a "surprise choice" and points out that he was not among the small group of frontrunners favoured by pundits before the conclave. Many observers were also expecting a younger pope to be elected.
Pope Francis I replaces 85-year-old Pope Benedict, who stepped down last month saying he was not strong enough to lead the church.
"I would like to thank you for your embrace," the bespectacled Pope Francis told the massive crowd. He also thanked his fellow cardinals, saying they "have chosen one from far away, but here I am."
"Habemus papam!," members of the crowd shouted in Latin, waving umbrellas and flags. "We have a pope!" Others cried "Viva il Papa!"
The New York Times says the appointment of Bergoglio sends a "powerful message that the future of the Church lies in the Global South, home to the bulk of the world's Catholics".
Bergoglio was born to Italian immigrant parents and was raised in the Argentine capital. It is understood that he came second in 2005 when the conclave chose Joseph Ratzinger as the new pope.
The Guardian says that although Bergoglio is considered "orthodox on doctrine", he is apparently more flexible on sexual doctrine. That flexibility only extends so far, however. In 2010, he challenged the Argentine government when it backed a gay marriage bill. "Let's not be naive. This isn't a simple political fight, it's an attempt to destroy God's plan," he wrote in a letter days before the bill was approved by Congress.
Bergolio's appeal within the Church is broad. He appeals to conservatives as a man who had held the line against "liberalising currents among the Jesuits", and to moderates he is "a symbol of the church's commitment to the developing world".
In Argentina, the new Pope is known as a moderate who has strong negotiating skills and is "willing to challenge powerful interests", says Reuters. His biographer says he is shy, has "monk-like habits" and is "deeply concerned about the social inequalities rife in his homeland and elsewhere in Latin America".
"His lifestyle is sober and austere," said Francesca Ambrogetti who interviewed Bergoglio extensively for her book. "That's the way he lives. He travels on the underground, the bus, when he goes to Rome he flies economy class."
Bergoglio's willingness to criticise politicians and Argentine society, meant he has had a "tricky relationship" with President Cristina Fernandez and her late husband and predecessor, Nestor Kirchner, Reuters says.
Bergoglio inherits a church wrestling with an array of challenges that intensified during Pope Benedict's tenure - from a priest shortage and growing competition from evangelical churches in the Southern Hemisphere, to a sexual abuse crisis that has "undermined the church's moral authority in the West". One thing is sure, say Pope Francis' supporters: "this quiet priest is expected to lead the Church with an iron grip and a strong social conscience". ·