In Depth

At last, a Pope from continent where most Catholics live

Election of Cardinal Bergoglio was a 'jaw-dropping' surprise to many – but it shouldn't have been

ARGENTINA'S Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the first Latin American Pope, will face an "uphill struggle" to inspire the faithful. There are also questions about the 76-year-old's involvement with the junta that ruled Argentina 30 years ago. Here's what leading commentators are saying this morning about Pope Francis:

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Christopher Lamb in the Tablet: "It is not a cliché to say the election of Pope Francis was a jaw-dropping surprise. The first Jesuit and the first Latin American to be elected to the Chair of St Peter. When his name was read out the drenched crowd in St Peter's Square fell silent. Not because they were surprised but because they had no clue who he was."

Rachel Donadio in the New York Times: "In many ways, Cardinal Bergoglio — the first to take the name Francis, after the beloved saint who took a vow of poverty — seems to be the anti-Benedict. He is a warm, pastoral figure known as a good communicator, one who might have more success reversing the church's sagging fortunes than did Benedict, even without a major change in church doctrine. It seemed almost as if the cardinals were trying again."

Editorial in The Catholic Herald: "The election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Pope was a surprise. But perhaps, with hindsight, it shouldn't have been. According to unofficial accounts he came second in the conclave balloting to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in 2005. But somehow he kept out of the media spotlight in the run-up to this conclave, leading many to strike him off the lists of papabili hastily pulled out of journalists' drawers when Pope Benedict dramatically abdicated last month."

Andrew Brown in the Guardian: "The election of a Latin American Jesuit would have been unthinkable 30 years ago. The choice of Bergoglio shows a decisive shift in the church's centre of gravity away from Europe and towards the continent where most Catholics live, and where the challenges to the church are rather different to those in Europe."

Damian Thompson in the Daily Telegraph: "His challenge is clear... In many parts of the world, Roman Catholicism has become almost synonymous with sexual abuse and its concealment. The crisis is as bad as it was in 2005, when Benedict was elected, although most of the crimes are now more distant historical events."

Uki Goni and Jonathan Watts in the Guardian: "The news of Latin America's first pope was clouded by lingering concerns about the role of the church – and its new head – during Argentina's brutal military dictatorship. The Catholic church and Pope Francis have been accused of a complicit silence and worse during the 'dirty war' of murders and abductions carried out by the junta that ruled Argentina from 1976 to 1983."

Jerome Taylor in the Independent: "In the days running up to this week's papal conclave I did a brief ring-round of Catholics about what the Church needed from the man who would become the 266 Pope. The most eloquent response came from an elderly priest who used just two words: 'A miracle'."

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