A New Pope from the New World

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio.

For the last 1,000 years, the leaders of the largest Christian organization in the world have been Europeans. They were all been born in Europe, raised in Europe, and shaped by European customs and culture. Today, for the first time ever, the leader of the Roman Catholic is an American. I do not mean to say that he is from the United States of America. Rather, he is a native of the American continent, a descendant of European ancestors. What will his unique perspective from another continent bring to the Vatican? The world is hoping that, whatever this change brings, it is enough to counter the series of small crises that have plagued the worldwide church of 1.2 billion members. Sex abuse scandals, infighting in the Roman Curia, and problems at the Vatican Bank will greet Francis I as soon as he begins his regular duties. These all come in addition to the already popular worldwide movements for homosexual rights, contraception, and abortion, all of which are opposed by the church.

It is possible that this all comes in response to the demographic/geographic shifts within the church itself. Even as church membership and activity are declining in the ever-more-secularized Europe, Latin American membership is growing, having now reached 41% of all Catholics worldwide. Indeed, it has been “perceived as a Catholic bedrock that needs support to counter the tremendous growth of Protestantism.” Perhaps the college of cardinals sees this choice as a way to reinforce that bedrock and counter the secular movements that have taken Europe. After all, as a cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was known to be a conservative defender of the traditional values of Catholicism. So, maybe this is a message to the world that, although people and origins change, the values and principles of the church will not.

Either way you look at it, this new pope will be exciting to watch. The themes he chooses to emphasize and the policies he advocates will all define the direction of the Catholic church in the coming years. Everyone around the world, including me, will be eagerly awaiting his first move.



4 thoughts on “A New Pope from the New World”

  1. I think what is especially interesting about the new pope being from Argentina is the increased attention South America has right now. In a few years the Olympics will be hosted there, and in the next year the World Cup will also be in South America. Although these two events seem unrelated to the pope, it actually is another demonstration of South America rising to become a dominant participant in world affairs. I think the pope will further accentuate South America’s “status.”

  2. I had the chance to talk to one of my friends the other day who is currently studying in a catholic seminary. It was really interesting to listen to him and how exciting this new pope was for the catholic world. In our conversation he talked about how exciting it was that this pope is not directly European and how this could effect the church as a whole. Already it seems that this pope is doing things a little bit different than previous popes such as just walking out and greeting people to the dismay of his security staff. I do think that this could be a great new light for Catholicism. What anne said above i think is an extremely important view as well. South america, at least in my opinion, has seemed to be a little on the back burner internationally. This could definitely be another step in the right direction for furthering South America’s recognition.

  3. I’ve wondered how the nationality of the pope plays into the strength of membership in his home country. It will be interesting to see how membership activity and growth progresses in Argentina. Also, I wonder if membership will wane with nationalities that are antagonistic towards Argentina.

  4. I agree with robernishan. Pope Benedict was not a popular character. It might not have helped that he came after Pope John, but there were a lot of people who just did not like him. I wonder if this new pope will be more extroverted than Benedict and if that will have any effect on Catholics.

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