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On March 13, 2013, shortly after 7 pm, white smoke started bellowing from the chimney on top of the Sistine Chapel as pilgrims gathered at Saint Peter’s Square and millions of television viewers waited in anticipation to know the name of the man who had been chosen to become the 266th successor of Saint Peter. A few minutes after 8 pm the Camerlingo announced from Saint Peter’s balcony: “Habemus papam“ – “We have a Pope”. It was a historic moment. The 115 cardinals of the Conclave elected Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina, as the first Jesuit and the first non-Western European Pope in the church's 2000-year history. Cardinal Bergoglio appeared on the balcony soon after and greeted the faithful with “Bona sera” – “Good evening” and asked them to pray for him. Everyone on the square and millions in front of their television sets prayed Our Father and Hail Mary – it was a moving moment. With other informal gestures, he referred to himself as coming from the other end of the world, called for brotherhood within the Catholic Church and suggested setting on a road of peace. By choosing the name Francis, he set a signal to his commitment to the poor linking his papacy with Saint Francis of Assisi who devoted his life to helping the poor.
Jorge Bergoglio was born to a poor Italian immigrant family in Argentina in 1936. The son of a railway worker, he studied chemistry, joined the Society of Jesus or the Jesuits and was ordained a priest in 1969. As archbishop of Buenos Aires, he fought for social justice, often confronted politicians, and was a pastoral man who lived an ascetic life in a small apartment instead of a palace, used public transportation instead of a chauffeured limousine, visited hospitals and prisons and cooked his own meals. Pope Francis is the first pontiff to come from the Americas, from South America, a continent where 40 percent of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics live. We pray for God’s blessing on Pope Francis’ papacy.

Tamás Meggyes, Vanessa Hansen