Pope of change

With his humble approach to the papacy and commitment to uplift the poor, he has transformed the global image of the Roman Catholic Church.

The first Pope from outside Europe in more than 1200 years, he lives a humble life—cooks his own food, uses public transport— eschewing the luxuries of high office.

The Pontiff was listed among the top 5 of Forbes most powerful people and was named ‘Person of the Year’ by TIME in 2013.

Childhood

Pope Francis was born Jorge Mario Bergoglio on December 17, 1936 in Buenos Aires to Italian immigrants. As a teenager, he underwent surgery to remove a lung due to serious infection.

Following his high school graduation, he enrolled at the University of Buenos Aires, where he received a master’s degree in chemistry. He worked as a chemical technician before venturing into priesthood.

He went on to train at the Jesuit seminary of Villa Devoto. In March 1958, he entered the Society of Jesus.

Priesthood

Ordained as a priest in December 1969, Francis began serving as Jesuit provincial of Argentina in 1973.

In 1992, Francis was named titular bishop of Auca and auxiliary of Buenos Aires, and in 1998, he became archbishop of Buenos Aires. As an Archbishop, he strengthened the presence of Church in the slums and underdeveloped areas of Buenos Aires.

Three years later, he was elevated to cardinal by Pope John Paul II, named the cardinal-priest of Saint Robert Bellarmine. As a cardinal, he restricted himself to a simple lifestyle and a life of self-dependency. He did not seek any material benefits and comforts and lived a life of humility.

In 2005, he was named president of the Bishops’ Conference of Argentina, serving in that position until 2011.

Following the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, Francis was elected as the Pope in 2013. Immediately after his appointment, he took several eye-twitching decisions, including the abolishing of the bonuses paid to Vatican employees and the annual bonus paid to the cardinals, opting instead to donate the money to the poor.

Francis began a shake-up of the hierarchy, appointing an eight-man cabinet of Cardinals from outside the Vatican who began drawing up what will effectively be a new constitution. The scandal-ridden Vatican Bank was also overhauled to comply with international accounting standards.

Changes in Vatican

Rather than choosing a name from the long list of his predecessors, he opted to honour Francis of Assisi, signalling a new emphasis on poverty and simplicity. Declining some of the more flamboyant Papal attire, including the ermine-lined robes and red shoes, he appeared in a simple white vestment asking the crowd to pray for him before giving his first blessing.

Francis sided with science on the question of where it all began. In a direct contradiction of the beliefs of creationists, he heartily endorsed the Big Bang theory which is considered to be the origin of the universe.

Not only has he changed the material possessions surrounding him, but also he insists on the title of Archbishop of Rome as opposed to the more formal title of Pope.

Francis also supports homosexuals in the church. He does not condemn the lifestyle and believes that homosexuals who actively pursue a righteous and moral life should be treated with the same respect as a moral heterosexual person.

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