The first Pope of the Americas Jorge Mario Begoglio hails from Argentina. 76 year old Jesuit Archbishop of Buenos Aires is a prominent figure throughout the continent, yet remains a simple pastor who is deeply loved by his diocese, throughout which he has travelled extensively on the underground and by bus during the 15 years of his Episcopal ministry.
“My people are poor and I am one of them”, he has said more than once, explaining his decision to live in an apartment and cook his own supper. He has always advised his priests to show mercy and apostolic courage and to keep their doors open to everyone. The worst thing that could happen to the Church, he has said on various occasions, “is what De Lubac called spiritual worldliness”, which means, “being self-centred”. And when he speaks of social justice, he calls people first of all to pick up the Catechism, to rediscover the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes. His project is simple: if you follow Christ, you understand that “trampling upon a person's dignity is a serious sin”.
He was born in Buenos Aires on 17th December 1936 as the son of Italian immigrants. His father Mario was an accountant employed by the railways and his mother Regina Sivori was a committed wife dedicated to raising their five children. He graduated as a chemical technician and then chose the path of the priesthood, entering the eparchial Seminary of Villa Devoto. On 11th March 1958 he entered the novitiate of the Society of Jesus. On 13th December 1969 he was ordained priest by Archbishop Ramon Jose Castellano. He continued his training between 1970 and 1971 at the University of Alcala de Henares, Spain, and on 22nd April 1973 made his final profession with the Jesuits.
On 31st July 1973 he was elected Provincial of the Jesuits in Argentina, an office he held for six years. In March 1986 he went to Germany to finish his doctoral thesis; his superiors then sent him to the Colegio del Salvador in Buenos Aires and next to the Jesuit Church in the city of Cordoba as spiritual director and confessor.
On 20th May 1992 Pope John Paul II appointed him titular Bishop of Auca and Auxiliary of Buenos Aires. On 27th May he received Episcopal ordination from the Cardinal in the Cathedral. He chose as his Episcopal motto miserando atque eligendo. On 03rd June, 1997, he was raised to the dignity of Co-adjutor Archbishop of Buenos Aires. Not even nine months had passed when, upon the death of Cardinal Quarracino, he succeeded him on 28th February 1998, as Archbishop, Primate of Argentina and Ordinary for the faithful of various Eastern Churches in Argentina who had no Ordinary of their own Churches sui iuris. Three years later, at the Consistory of 21 February 2001, Pope John Paul II created him Cardinal, assigning him the title of San Roberto Bellarmino. He asked the faithful not to come to Rome to celebrate his taking possession of cardinalship, but rather to donate to the poor what they would have spent on the journey. As Grand chancellor of the Catholic University of Argentina, he is the author of the books: Meditaciones para religiosos (1982), Reflexiones sobre la vida apostolica (1992) and Reflexiones de esperanza (1992).
In October 2001 he was appointed General relator to the 10th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Episcopal ministry. This task was entrusted to him at the last minute to replace Cardinal Edward Michael Egan, Archbishop of New York, who was obliged to stay in his homeland because of the terrorist attacks on 11th September in the same year. At the Synod he placed particular emphasis on “the prophetic mission of the bishop”, his being a “prophet of justice”, his duty to “preach ceaselessly” the social doctrine of the Church and also “to express an authentic judgement in matters of faith and morals”. He declined to be appointed as President of the Argentinian Bishops' Conference in 2002, but three years later he was elected and then, in 2008, reconfirmed for a further three-year mandate. Meanwhile, in April 2005 he took part in the Conclave in which Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger was elected Pope.
As Archbishop of Buenos Aires- an Archdiocese with more than three million inhabitants- he had in his mind a missionary project based on communion and evangelization. He had four main goals: open and brotherly communities, an informed laity with leadership roles, evangelization efforts addressed to every inhabitant of the city, and assistance to the poor and the sick.He aimed at re- evangelization of Buenos Aires, “taking into account those who live there, its structure and history”. He asked priests and lay people to work together. In September 2009 he launched the solidarity campaign for the bicentenary of the Independence of the country. Two hundred charitable agencies were to be set up by 2016. And on a continental scale, he expected much from the impact of the message of the Aparecida Conference in 2007, to the point of describing it as the “Evangelii Nuntiandi of Latin America”.
As a cardinal, he had been a member of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the Congregation for the Clergy, the Congregation for the Institutes of the Consecrated Life and the Societies of the Apostolic Life, the Pontifical Council for the Family and the Pontifical Commission for the Latin America. He was elected Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church on 13th March 2013. He chose the name Francis after St. Francis of Assissi. He took canonical possession of the new office on 19th March 2013.
VIVA IL PAPA!
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