On the second day of the papal conclave, the world watched Wednesday as Catholic leaders announced that Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio would be the next head of the Catholic Church worldwide. Bergoglio, who will be known as Pope Francis I, is the first Latino (he is from Buenos Aires, Argentina) and the first Jesuit to assume the papacy.
Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia said in a statement, “This is an historic moment for our Church and for our community that the first Jesuit and the first Cardinal from the Americas has become Pope, the leader of our global community of believers.”
DeGioia acknowledged the shared Jesuit tradition of his institution and his new religious leader. “This very same tradition played an essential role in the formation of our new Pope, and we have seen it expressed in his preference and care for the poor, his vow of poverty, and his ministry as Archbishop of Buenos Aires. We are grateful to share this spiritual affinity with our new Pontiff,” he said.
Social media exploded with reactions to the announcement. Students and staff at universities across the country were overwhelmingly excited, basking in the reverence of the announcement, realizing that they were bearing witness to history.
“I couldn’t help think as I watched, that I was the first Latino American U.S. ambassador to the Holy See watching the first Latin American pope,” said University of Dayton Professor of Faith and Culture and former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See Miguel Díaz. “This is significant, as almost half of the church worldwide is Latin American and almost half of the church in the U.S. is Latino. There’s a saying in Spanish that, ‘Who we walk with in life matters.’ This man has walked with the poor, lived among immigrants, and he has a personal story of migration. This will undoubtedly shape the way he serves.”
Dr. Don Briel, founding director of the St. Thomas University’s (St. Paul, Minn.) Center for Catholic Studies, said Bergoglio’s appointment “is clearly something of a surprise.” “It seems likely that he is a compromise choice,” Briel says. “He is a man of unusual simplicity and personal holiness and is the first pope from Latin America. So, symbolically, a powerful appointment.”
Briel warns, “At the age of 76, this is not likely to position the Church for the future but to secure its current commitments. Nonetheless, such ‘caretaker’ popes have often surprised the Church.”
The Jesuit tradition includes a strong commitment to education and service, and many are hopeful that Pope Francis I will continue this tradition from the Vatican.
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