Mar 14 2013
The Catholic Church's surprising new leader from "the end of the earth" will hold his first Mass as pope on Thursday.
Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, 76, a pioneer pope from Argentina who took the name Francis, is a pastor rather than a manager, tasked with resurrecting a church and a faith in crisis.
The archbishop of Buenos Aires is the first pontiff from the New World and the first non-European since the Middle Ages. He is the first pope from the Americas, the first Jesuit and the first named Francis, after St Francis of Assisi, the humble friar who dedicated his life to helping the poor. The last non-European pope was Syria's Gregory III from 731-41.
Francis will celebrate his first Mass as pope in the Sistine Chapel and will be installed officially on Tuesday.
One of his first foreign trips is expected to be World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro in July, an event that will energise the continent, given their native son will be presiding.
Vatican spokesman the Rev Federico Lombardi, also a Jesuit, said he was particularly stunned by the election given that Jesuits typically shun positions of authority in the church, instead offering their work in service to those in power.
But he said that in accepting, Francis must have felt it "a strong call to service", an antidote to all those who speculated that the papacy was about a search for power.
"You know that the work of the conclave is to give a bishop to Rome," the new pontiff said as he waved shyly to the tens of thousands who braved the cold rain in St Peter's Square. "It seems as if my brother cardinals went to find him from the end of the earth, but here we are. Thank you for the welcome."
Francis, said to have finished second when Pope Benedict XVI was elected in 2005, was chosen on just the fifth ballot to replace the first pontiff to resign in 600 years. In the past century, only Benedict, John Paul I in 1978 and Pius XII in 1939 were elected faster.
His election elated Latin Americans, who number 40% of the world's Catholics but have long been under-represented in the church leadership. Drivers honked their horns in the streets of Buenos Aires and television announcers screamed with elation at the news.