When Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio stepped out onto the balcony of St. Peter’s as the new Pope, many were unfamiliar with him. Many wondered who he was, where he was from, and how he would lead the Church in these trying times. When his name was announced—Francis—the world had its first indication that this was going to be a “Pope of firsts.”
But for those who already knew Pope Francis as Cardinal Bergoglio, there was nothing surprising about the choice of that name. As the archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Bergoglio had already developed a reputation as a man of unusual humility, simplicity, love for the poor, and evangelical spirit.
Encountering Christ gives the reader a glimpse into the heart and mind of Pope Francis. It offers a selection of homilies, letters, and addresses delivered from 2009-2013 as archbishop of Buenos Aires. These texts contain many of the themes that have already emerged as central to Pope Francis’ pontificate: love for the poor, the dangers of a self-referential Church, and the need to “go out” and bring Christ to the world. As the world learns more about Pope Francis in the months and years to come, these texts offer an introduction into the “spiritual priorities” of our new Holy Father.
Pope Francis was born Jorge Mario Bergoglio on 17 December 1936 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. As a young man, he worked briefly as a chemical technician and nightclub bouncer before entering the Jesuits. He was ordained a priest in 1969, and from 1973 to 1979, was Argentina’s Provincial Superior of the Society of Jesus. He became the Archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1998, and was appointed a Cardinal in 2001.
Following the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI on 28 February 2013, Bergoglio was named his successor on 13 March. He chose the name Francis in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi. He is the first Jesuit Pope, the first Pope from the Americas, the first Pope from the Southern Hemisphere, and the first non-European Pope in over 1200 years.
Pope Francis has been noted for his humility, his concern for the poor, and his commitment to dialogue as a way to build bridges between people of all backgrounds, beliefs, and faiths.