by Sam Juliano
While the deck was basically stacked for the prospects of yet another unyielding conservative papal selection, it must at least be said that today’s shock announcement from the Vatican has at least some people excited about their faith. The completely off-the-radar selection of Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio did more to raise eyebrows, not the least reason of course being that the 76 year-old is the first pope chosen from outside Italy in 1,300 years. Few will even remember that Bergolio was the main opposition to Benedict in 2005, purportedly drawing 40 votes at one point in the four-ballot election of the German cardinal. But insiders have revealed that Bergoglio begged his fellow cardinals not to choose him, hence eight years later at an advanced age few saw this incredible surprise looming. After choosing the 78 year-old Ratzinger, and then watching his resign, there weren’t many willing to predict the follow-up choice of a 76 year-old.
Bergoglio is said to have lived his life simply, attending to the poor, cooking his own meals and moving up the religious ladder as a Jesuit. The new pope is widely considered one of the most moderate choices in the college, even if his views on abortion, homosexuality and the ordination of women remain totally unacceptable. Yet there seems to be a slim ray of light, when one considers he is basically a humble man, who it can be said has had only limited connection to the Vatican and the much-maligned Roman curia.
Choosing the name ‘Francis I’ is in a pastoral sense an inspiration for Christians, and will have some at least temporarily looking away from the inevitable corruption and hypocrisy that runs rampant in the Roman church. The decision to pick Bergoglio when every previous analysis by Vatican watchers never even mentioned his name (only the renowned Vatican watcher and reporter John Allen had mentioned him as a serious contender, though on the fringes considering his age) will no doubt upend all assumptions and ramifications about this process, and will breathe some pastoral life into a church rife with every kind of scandal imaginable.
The real winners today though, are the bookies in the U.K. and in Ireland who pretty much cleaned the board. Surely very few put their money on Bergolio.