Habemus Papam — And He’s One of Us! Pope Francis Elected as First Jesuit Leader of the Roman Catholic Church


Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was elected the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church last Wednesday, taking the name Pope Francis. The Argentine national is the world’s first Jesuit pope and the first pope from the Americas. His election was signified with white smoke coming out of the Vatican chimney, and the announcement of “Habemus Papam,” meaning “we have a pope.”

As a member of the Society of Jesus, founded by St. Ignatius in 1540, Pope Francis took the Jesuit oath, which is a vow of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Father Donal Godfrey, S.J., associate director for faculty and staff spirituality, said a pope with Jesuit ideals will make a difference in the world. “I was very surprised by the election of the first Jesuit pope,” said Father Godfrey. “This is an exciting moment in the history of the church.”

Though he has only been in office for five days, Pope Francis has already exemplified the Jesuit ideal of social justice plays a big role in his leadership, mainly through his emphasis on helping the poor. “The pope is very focused on preferential options for the poor. You can see it in his policies, his statements, and his stories of the work he’s done even as Cardinal of Buenos Aires,” explained Don Crean, associate director of university ministry. According to National Christian Reporter, “preferential options” refers to the trend in Judeo-Christian religion to focus on the well-being and care-taking of the poor.

The pope chose his name after St. Francis of Assisi, who gave up his wealth and lavish lifestyle for one of poverty, religion, and peace. “Right away, with regard to the poor, I thought of St. Francis of Assisi,” Pope Francis told reporters the night of his election. The pope chose Francis, who happens to be the patron saint of San Francisco, because of his devotion to peace and because he was, in his words, a “poor man, a simple man, as we would like a poor church, for the poor.”
Crean said the pope’s calling to the church in serving the less fortunate is just a short step away from USF’s calling to its students in serving the Jesuit mission.

“Jesuits are usually grouped with education, but look at their mission — it’s about education with a purpose,” said Crean. “The Jesuit University teaches students to excel in their personal and professional lives for the purpose of creating a more positive world. Part of that is helping the poor and working for the marginalized.”

As a Jesuit, Pope Francis is also somewhat of a surprise. According to Crean, Jesuits are not historically linked to high positions, as St. Ignatius discouraged members of the order from holding positions of high office in order to keep the Jesuit community on the front line of the church — that is, in schools and in parishes.

Despite holding the ultimate religious position, the front pages of newspapers and magazines worldwide such as The Washington Post and Time Magazine are calling Pope Francis the “pope of the poor.” Perhaps because, on the night of his election, he refused the papal limousine and insisted on taking the bus with his fellow cardinals. He also paid for his own hotel bill, despite having it offered to him for free. Pope Francis also left the Vatican balcony to enter the crowd on the night of his inaugural mass on Sunday.

Father Godfrey said this is what makes Pope Francis so special. “I have been delighted to see the simplicity and warmth of Pope Francis,” he said. “[He] is so real, a real pastor, and I believe that we need such a person in this moment.”
Pope Francis can also add another first to his list. He’s the first religious leader to rule under the Jesuit motto of Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam, which means “for the greater glory of God” in Latin.
“Pope Francis has an Ignatian spirituality which finds God in all things, and I think such a positive outlook — the understanding that God is already present in the world, including the world outside the Church — will change so very much,” said Father Godfrey.

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