As part of our initiative for the Year of Faith, Veritas is proud to present Profiles in Faith, a series of essays on the life and work of Christian men and women who lived their lives as ‘faith in action’. We encourage you to read the accounts, and to reflect on them over the course of the month. Additional biographical sources are also suggested, should you wish to find out more.
Profile Thirtee: Pope Francis
|Born in Buenos Aires on 17 December 1936, Jorge Mario Bergoglio was 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. Jorge graduated as a chemical technician and then chose the path of the priesthood, entering the Diocesan Seminary of Villa Devoto. On 1 1 March 1958 he entered the novitiate of the Society of Jesus. He completed his studies of the humanities in Chile and returned to Argentina in 1963 to graduate with a degree in philosophy from the Colegio de San José in San Miguel. From 1967–70 he studied theology and obtained a degree from the same university.
On 13 December 1969 Bergoglio was ordained a priest by Archbishop Ramón José Castellano. He continued his training between 1970 and 1971 at the University of Alcalá de Henares, Spain, and on 22 April 1973 made his final profession with the Jesuits. In that same year, on 31 July 1973, he was appointed Provincial of the Jesuits in Argentina, an office he held for six years. Bergoglio then resumed his work in the university sector and from 1980 to 1986 served as Rector of the Colegio de San José, as well as parish priest in San Miguel. 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 Córdoba as spiritual director and confessor.
It was Cardinal Antonio Quarracino, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, who wanted Bergoglio as a close collaborator. So, on 20 May 1992, Pope John Paul II appointed him titular Bishop of Auca and Auxiliary of Buenos Aires. On 27 May he received episcopal ordination from the cardinal in the cathedral, choosing as his episcopal motto, miserando atque eligendo (‘Lowly, but chosen’). On 3 June 1997, Bergoglio was raised to the dignity of Coadjutor Archbishop of Buenos Aires. Not even nine months had passed when, upon the death of Cardinal Quarracino, he succeeded him on 28 February 1998, as Archbishop, Primate of Argentina and Ordinary for Eastern-rite faithful in Argentina.
||Three years later, at the Consistory of 21 February 2001, 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 creation as cardinal but rather to donate to the poor what they would have spent on the journey. Despite his status in the Church, Cardinal Bergoglio remained a simple pastor and was deeply loved by his diocese, throughout which he travelled extensively on the underground and by bus during the fifteen 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. In September 2009 he launched the solidarity campaign for the bicentenary of the Independence of Argentina, with the aim of setting up two hundred charitable agencies in Agentina by 2016.
Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected Supreme Pontiff on 13 March 2013. Soon after, he explained why he chose the name Francis. When it became clear the cardinals had elected him Pope, he said, Cardinal Hummes ‘embraced me and kissed me and said: “Don’t forget the poor”… and that struck me … the poor … Immediately I thought of St Francis of Assisi. Francis was a man of peace, a man of poverty, a man who loved and protected creation.’ That was when he chose the name Francis, he explained, adding: ‘How I would love a Church that is poor and for the poor.’
Adapted from L'Osservatore Romano, Year LXIII, number 12
- What has struck you most about the papacy of Pope Francis, thus far?
- How can you work to create a Church ‘that is poor and [is] for the poor’ in your parish community?
Previous Profiles in Faith:
September 2013: Blessed José Olalla Valdés
August 2013: St Thérèse of Lisieux
July 2013: Catherine McAuley
June 2013: Blessed Irish Martyrs
May 2013: Frère Roger
April 2013: Blessed Edmund Rice
March 2013: St Patrick
February 2013: Dorothy Day
January 2013: St Francis of Assisi
December 2012: St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein)
November 2012: Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta
October 2012: Thomas Merton