By now, countless electronic and print sources have highlighted the major biographical points of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now His Holiness, Pope Francis. Rather than summarize Wikipedia, TJP, or even (former) Cardinal Bergoglio’s website, I offer five brief notes here:
1. His episcopal motto: When he became a bishop in 1992, Bergoglio chose as his motto miserando atque eligendo, “lowly and yet chosen.” The phrase comes from a homily of the Venerable Bede reflecting on the Call of Matthew. Matthew knew himself to be unworthy (read: “human”) yet Jesus chose him, not despite but because of, his humanity. These words signal humility, and may also reflect a common formulation of Jesuit identity: “What is it to be a Jesuit? It is to know that one is a sinner; yet called to be a companion of Jesus.”
2. His reputation for simplicity: Media outlets have already reported that Pope Francis (or PF, as I’m hoping the world starts to call him) leads a simple life. He lived in a small apartment instead of the bishop’s palace, prepared his own meals, and took public transportation to work. (The past tense in all of these verbs is deliberate, because as pope, that degree of simplicity will likely be impossible. Unless, that is, we can reclassify the Popemobile as a kind of public transportation…) Still, all accounts suggest that Pope Francis’s simplicity is authentic and not limited to externals, and it will be exciting to see how it shapes his papacy.
3. His clothing today: All the popes from (at least) Pius XI up to Benedict XVI opted to don the traditional red shoulder cape (a mozzetta) when they first appeared on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica. Pope Francis did not. This could be for any number of reasons, but one fact remains indisputable: today, the world met a pope who could not possibly have dressed any more simply.
4. His first speech: NPR has this quick translation of Pope Francis’s first Urbi et Orbi message. Reading that message now, after hearing it, consoles me. Two notes: first, the pope led us in prayer. In his first words therefore, Francis united the throngs of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square, to speak with one voice. Second, the pope asked for the blessing of the entire People of God, bowing before them as a servant (or a servus servorum) bows before the one served.
5. Tomorrow: It’s no easier to predict the trajectory of a papacy than the election of a pope. His biography, though, suggests that his ministry will be learned. Before he showed up on the balcony, even before he was a priest, he was a student of high intellectual curiosity. He has degrees in chemistry, philosophy, and theology, and has taught all of these (and literature and psychology as well) as a Jesuit. In addition to his formal teaching assignments, he also served (twice) as a superior for Jesuits in formation. A hunger for learning – as a teacher and a student – has been central to Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s life so far.
No life can be summarized in five brief notes, but all of this – on day one – gives me reason to hope.
Viva il Papa! Viva Papa Francisco!