Pope Contender: Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina
Apr 17, 2005
Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio has earned the good will of Argentina’s Roman Catholics with his self-effacing style — he rides the bus to work instead of a chauffeur-driven car, spurns the official residence for a modest apartment, even does his own cooking.
(Associated Press, April 16th, 2005 ) With speculation that a successor to Pope John Paul II could emerge from Latin America, where nearly half the world’s 1 billion Roman Catholics live, the 68-year-old archbishop of Buenos Aires is seen as a possible contender.
The son of middle-class Italian immigrants, Bergoglio became the first Jesuit archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1998 and was appointed cardinal three years later.
An advocate for the poor, he has championed social programs and won public respect for questioning free-market policies he blames for leaving millions of Argentines impoverished. Nonetheless, his conservative leanings on doctrinal and spiritual issues are widely seen as in keeping with John Paul’s legacy.
If chosen, he would become the first Jesuit pontiff.
In a nation where politicians and business leaders were discredited after Argentina’s devastating 2001 economic crisis, Bergoglio won accolades for his biting critiques of the problems afflicting South America’s second-largest country.
His activism has established him as one of Argentina’s more respected public figures. In one of his final Masses before departing for Rome, throngs chanted “Viva Bergoglio!” after a sermon honoring John Paul.
Bergoglio frequently spends his weekends visiting parishes in Buenos Aires’ impoverished outskirts and shuns the formal trappings of office.
In speeches, Bergoglio has chided Argentina’s bickering political leaders, urging them to set aside differences and help rebuild a country still recovering from its worst financial upheaval in history. The turmoil pushed 40 percent of Argentines into poverty.
On spiritual issues, he has opposed abortion and supported celibacy. On church matters, Bergoglio has called for tightening the Church’s hierarchical structure to ease internal dissent.
Any Bergoglio candidacy may be hampered by health concerns — he has only one lung after an operation when he was a teenager.