“May God forgive you for what you have done,” the newly ordained Pope Francis said in jest to his fellow cardinals, filling the room with laughter.
For the 1.2 billion Catholics around the world, the cloud of white smoke that perfumed out from the Sistine Chapel on Tuesday brought cheers, tears, and celebration; it was a sign that the conclave had elected the 266th pope.
But when Argentinian archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio, 76, emerged as the new Pope Francis, many people—Catholic clergy included—were pleasantly surprised, considering he wasn’t on the list of papal frontrunners. Still, the shock quickly turned into praise and exaltation, especially in South America, where 4 out of 10 Catholics reside.
So who is Pope Francis? And what will his new era of leadership bring? Here are 10 interesting facts:
+ He is the first non-European pope in over a thousand years.
+ He is the first Jesuit to become pope.
+ He is named after St. Francis of Assisi because of his passion for the poor, whom he was said to have visited often in the slums of Argentina.
+ Prior to becoming Pope Francis, Bergoglio was archbishop of Buenos Aries from 1998 to 2013.
+ As a teenager, he lost one of his lungs due to an infection.
+ Before working for The Church, he was a chemist who taught literature, philosophy, psychology, and theology.
+ He is known for being humble, shy, and democratic in nature and is considered to be on the reformer side of The Church, although he isn’t necessarily considered progressive.
+ He abstained from using the perks of his office in Argentina, cooking his own meals and taking the bus to work.
+ He was the runner-up to Pope Benedict XVI in the papal elections in 2005.
+ He dislikes bickering about doctrinal issues and believes that social outreach is the duty of The Church.
Watch a mini bio of Pope Francis:
For many Catholics, while the confetti may still be in the air for the dawn of this new papal era, there’s the immediate concern on how Pope Francis will handle the huge challenges of The Church, which has been fraught with child sex abuse scandals. Will he confront them head on? Will he turn a blind eye?
Considering he has a history of fearlessly confronting the political issues that have plagued Argentina, Francis’ papacy may prove to be in the spotlight more than he bargained for—and that’s coming from a man who is known to be media shy.
But those issues aside, Pope Francis will also have to find time to answer another pressing question on the minds of the younger and newer generation of Catholics he’ll serve: Will he tweet?