Pope Francis embarks on ground-breaking papacy

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Pope Francis waves to the crowd from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio who chose the name of Francis is the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. AP PHOTO/GREGORIO BORGIA

VATICAN CITY—Pope Francis embarked Thursday on a ground-breaking papacy as the first Latin American leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics and a Church in turmoil.

Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, the humble 76-year-old son of a railwayman, kicked off his first full day as pontiff with private prayers at a Rome basilica.

The election of the former archbishop of Buenos Aires, who had not been considered a favorite in the run-up to this week’s secret conclave, met with widespread surprise and expressions of hope for a groundswell of change for a Church dogged by scandal and internal conflict.

It was also seen as recognition of the Church’s rapid growth in Latin America, which is now home to 40 percent of the world’s Catholics, in contrast to its decline in Europe.

“The choice of Bergoglio shows that the Church is determined not to remain in mourning for the crisis in Europe but has opened its doors to the revitalizing energy of Catholicism’s biggest continent,” Vatican expert Luigi Accatoli told AFP. “It is a momentous step.”

The Italian daily La Repubblica, under the headline “Revolution at St. Peter’s”, said the election of the former Jesuit priest represented a “geographic and cultural upheaval” for the Vatican.

Reactions continued to pour in from world leaders, with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard saying: “The election of a pope from the ‘new world’ is an occasion of genuinely historic proportions.”

The new pontiff, the first from the Jesuit order, emerged smiling onto the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica on Wednesday to cries of “Long live the pope!” from tens of thousands of pilgrims massed in the famous piazza below.

The first non-European pope in nearly 1,300 years devoted his first prayer to his predecessor Benedict XVI and called for “fraternity” among Catholics.

“It seems that my brother cardinals have gone to the ends of the earth (to find a pope),” Francis said, referring to his native Argentina, which erupted in celebrations at his appointment.

“Now, we take up this journey… A journey of fraternity, of love, of trust among us,” he said.

Bergoglio, seen as a moderate conservative, had barely figured in the pre-vote speculation, although he is believed to have finished runner-up to Benedict in the 2005 election.

Presenting an image as a simple man of the people, he chose to name himself after the ascetic St. Francis of Assisi.

But Bergoglio, hailed by US President Barack Obama as “a champion of the poor and the most vulnerable among us,” is not without controversy.

He was criticized along with other Catholic clergy for failing to stand up to Argentina’s military dictatorship of 1976-83, during which 30,000 people died or disappeared.

More recently, his opposition to gay marriage and the distribution of contraceptives has brought him into conflict with the Argentine government.

Argentine President Cristina Kirchner on Wednesday wished her compatriot “a fruitful pastoral mission”.

There had been growing calls both within and outside the Church for the next pope to come from the southern hemisphere for the first time.

The Argentinian of Italian descent became the 266th pope after Benedict stunned the world in February with his decision to resign, the first to voluntarily step down in 700 years.

Benedict’s eight-year reign was riven by scandals and the new pope will face immediate challenges — chiefly stamping his authority on the Vatican machinery and trying to coax back a Catholic flock that is deserting churches across the West.

The hushed-up sexual abuse of children by paedophile priests going back decades cast a dark shadow over the conclave, which included several cardinals implicated in the scandals.

After Francis visited Rome’s Santa Maria Maggiore basilica Thursday, a priest there told AFP: “It was a moving encounter, full of goodness and humility.”

Father Ludovico Melo added that the new pope “kept telling us, ‘be merciful, be merciful’.”

In the late afternoon Francis will return to the Sistine Chapel, the hallowed venue of the conclave that elected him on Wednesday, to co-celebrate mass with his former peers.

The Vatican said Francis’s inauguration mass would take place on Tuesday — a significant date in the Catholic calendar because it is the Feast of St. Joseph, patron saint of the universal Church.

Benedict, 85, will retire to a former nunnery inside the Vatican. Francis has already called his predecessor and they will meet soon, the Vatican said.

In one of his last acts as pope, Benedict issued a decree allowing cardinals to bring forward the date of a conclave in the event of a pope’s resignation — a move seen by many as potentially setting a precedent for ageing pontiffs in the future.

Vatican experts said the prospect of future resignations could have encouraged the cardinals to elect an older candidate in the knowledge that he could step down if his health fails.

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  • marionics

    hindi SM?

    he he

    • Crazy_horse101010

      our troll buddy is back ranting and raving again. his trying to find everyone in history that raped a child who wasnt catholic. what he doesnt understand those people went to jail not being shipped somewhere else, and protected. and i know of anyone else who been sued for over 3 billion so far another 10 million today

  • joerizal

    It’s a reboot and reinvention of the Catholic Church’s “importance” in world affairs. Kung hindi na relevant ang simbahan sa mga nangyayari sa mundo, talagang mauubos ang mga Katoliko. Out-of-touch ang catechism ng simbahan at lalong mas lihis sa landas ang ugali at pananlita ng mga pari nila. Linisin muna nila ang bakuran nila bago sila ulit pasukin ng mga nananampalataya.

    • D_BystandeR

      Maybe you are referring to the current “blasphemous or sacrilegious” political campaign launched by the Catholic hierarchy using “Team Patay! and Team buhay!” It’s a trade- mark of how callously unpopular is the present leadership of our local Catholic church whose intervention into the affairs of the state “leaves a bad taste in the mouth.”

  • at-large

     siya ang nanalo sa Election ng Santo? baka namigay ng bigas at sardinas hahahahahahaha…tumigil na kayo sa relihiyon ba pinagloloko lang kayo!!!

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/BCQIC64N7IZSAMG35SC27GLN5U charlie

    Sinong sabing out of touch ang mga pare?  Di mo ba alam na malapit nga ang mga iyan sa mga bata kaya kasiping nila ang mga ito.  Kaya nga nagresign si Benedicta kasi mayroon sex tape siya kasama ang kanyang butler.  Manyakis pala ang mga iyan at hipocrita. Mga magulang na makitid ang isip – hwag nyong iwan ang iyong anak sa mga Pare at baka ma-rape ang anak nyo.

    • D_BystandeR

      Your comment appears awfully sarcastic! You should have let a month-long celebration after the Catholic church has successfully elected its prince in the person of Pope Francis I before releasing your tirade, snipe or gossip. What a heck!

  • Dancing Bear

    Pedophilia and monetary excesses are not the sole proprietorship of the Catholic Church. Many other smaller churches, ministers, pastors are just as full of errors as well. It’s just that they don’t pose much significance and wont get as much headline worthy panache as would a priest from the almighty Catholic Church. I’m not an apologetic. I left the RCC a long time ago in favor of a higher diety. Me. 

  • spelster

    Even though I’m not a Catholic, I’m already beginning to like this Pope. I learned that he is a champion of the poor, humble, down-to-earth, stopping by his hotel to pick up his luggage and pay the bills (he was already elected pope at this time), chose a simple white cossack to wear for his inauguration, and even rode a simple car in his first day as pontiff. A great trait of a leader. 

    How about our Catholic bishops (CBCP), priests, and clergymen?! Hmmm… Lahat ata kabaliktaran eh. Time to learn a lesson or two from the newly elected Pope. Seems you need a lot of them though.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OHOD5EA75DBBUH53UKLRXRK764 Mang Teban

      Your comment is sensible. I cannot say the same to those below you. 
      Thank you for acknowledging the humility of the new pope, Pope Francis I.

    • lazy_dawg

      A new beginning for Catholics around the globe, this gives me hope ( again) with Pope Francis at the helm … CBCP changing it’s course to champion the poor ???  when hell freezes over …….

      • spelster

        kung baga sa pinoy language, “Asa pa!?” heheh.. hirap tlga pag nkatikim ng karangyaan ano?! “Everybody cheats, anyway” nga daw eh.. :)

  • mabyrik

    The election of the first SJ who rode buses and trains on his way to his work and his love and concern for the poor in his home country, as pope will definitely embarrass and shame the Philippine’s CBCP. 

    The new pope and our bishops are like heaven and h$%^&l, the former is lovable and the later is a  charlatan you will love to hate.

    Just recently, we were shocked when Bishops Pueblo was exposed to have asked GMA for a brand-new SUV as birthday gift. Other bishops were also exposed to have asked gifts, cars, money from corrupt government leaders in exchange for silence while they looted the Philippine treasury. These bishops blessed GMA wherever she went tacitly telling her “Go ahead GMA, you can steal, lie and cheat and we will support you”. These bishops now accept cheating as acceptable because “everyone cheats anyway”. They even blessed a corrupt CJ  prior to his impeachment. We all know that Corona was convicted because of that blessing.

    Hopefully, because of a pro-poor Pope Francis, our CBCP bishops will learn to ride a bus and not ask for a brand-new car as birthday gift and will be in flood-stricken places helping the victim instead of drinking expensive wine and eating filet mignom and caviar in their gated palaces during calamities.

    Hopefully, because of pro-poor Pope Francis, our CBCP bishops will have the courage to open their eyes that politics, greed, and arrogance on one hand and spirituality on the other do not mix. It is one over the other.

    • japan2

      Sana mabasa to sa mga CBCP!!!

  • Stella Belle

    Happy that the new Pope is a Jesuit. Jesuits are known to be discerning priests. They are not dogmatic, they think of the poor and they are highly intellectual. And added bonus, he took up Saint Francis’ name, the priest who went all around Asia to save the souls of the heathens, the Saint who taught us how to forgive and to make all of us a “channel of peace. (Prayers of Saint Francis)”

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