Pope Francis (Latin: Franciscus; Italian: Francesco; Spanish: Francisco; born Jorge Mario Bergoglio,[b] 17 December 1936) is the 266th and current Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, a title he holds ex officio as Bishop of Rome, and Sovereign of the Vatican City. He chose Francis as his papal name in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi. Francis is the first Jesuit pope, the first from the Americas, the first from the Southern Hemisphere and the first non-European pope since the Syrian Gregory III, who died in 741.
Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Bergoglio worked briefly as a chemical technologist and nightclub bouncer before beginning seminary studies. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 1969, and from 1973 to 1979 was Argentina’s provincial superior of the Society of Jesus. He was accused of handing two priests to the National Reorganization Process during the Dirty War, but the lawsuit was ultimately dismissed. He became the Archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1998, and was created a cardinal in 2001 by Pope John Paul II. He led the Argentine Church during the December 2001 riots in Argentina, and the administrations of Néstor Kirchner and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner considered him a political rival. Following the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI on 28 February 2013, a papal conclave elected Bergoglio as his successor on 13 March.
Throughout his public life, Pope Francis has been noted for his humility, emphasis on God’s mercy, concern for the poor, and commitment to interfaith dialogue. He is credited with having a humble, less formal approach to the papacy than his predecessors, for instance choosing to reside in the Domus Sanctae Marthae guesthouse rather than in the papal apartments of the Apostolic Palace used by his predecessors. In addition, due to both his Jesuit and Ignatian aesthetic, he is known for favoring simpler vestments void of ornamentation, including refusing the traditional papal mozzetta cape upon his election, choosing silver instead of gold for his piscatory ring, and keeping the same pectoral cross he had as Cardinal. He maintains that the church should be more open and welcoming. He does not support unbridled capitalism, Marxism, or Marxist versions of liberation theology. Francis maintains the traditional views of the church regarding abortion, euthanasia, contraception, homosexuality, ordination of women, and priestly celibacy. He opposes consumerism, irresponsible development, and supports taking action on climate change, a focus of his papacy with the promulgation of Laudato si’. In international diplomacy, he helped to restore full diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba.
Jorge Mario Bergoglio (fourth boy from the left on the third row from the top) at age 12, while studying at the Salesian College.
Jorge Mario Bergoglio was born on 17 December 1936 in Flores, a neighborhood of Buenos Aires. He was the eldest of five children of Mario José Bergoglio (1908–1959) and Regina María Sívori (1911–1981). Mario Bergoglio was an Italian immigrant accountant born in Portacomaro (Province of Asti) in Italy’s Piedmont region. Regina Sívori was a housewife born in Buenos Aires to a family of northern Italian (Piedmontese-Genoese) origin. Mario José’s family left Italy in 1929, to escape the fascist rule of Benito Mussolini. María Elena Bergoglio, the Pope’s only living sibling, confirmed that their emigration was not for economic reasons. His other siblings were Alberto Horacio, Oscar Adrián and Marta Regina. Two great-nephews, Antonio and Joseph, died in a traffic collision.
In the sixth grade, Bergoglio attended Wilfrid Barón de los Santos Ángeles, a school of the Salesians of Don Bosco, in Ramos Mejía, Buenos Aires. He attended the technical secondary school Escuela Técnica Industrial N° 27 Hipólito Yrigoyen, named after a past President of Argentina, and graduated with a chemical technician’s diploma. He worked for a few years in that capacity in the foods section at Hickethier-Bachmann Laboratory where his boss was Esther Ballestrino. Before joining the Jesuits, Bergoglio worked as a bar bouncer and as a janitor sweeping floors, and he also ran tests in a chemical laboratory.
In the only known health crisis of his youth, at the age of 21 he suffered from life-threatening pneumonia and three cysts. He had part of a lung excised shortly afterwards. Bergoglio has been a lifelong supporter of San Lorenzo de Almagro football club. Bergoglio is also a fan of the films of Tita Merello, neorealism, and tango dancing, with an “intense fondness” for the traditional music of Argentina and Uruguay known as the milonga.
Pre-papal career, 1958–2013
Bergoglio found his vocation to the priesthood while he was on his way to celebrate the Spring Day. He passed by a church to go to confession, and was inspired by the priest. Bergoglio studied at the archdiocesan seminary, Inmaculada Concepción Seminary, in Villa Devoto, Buenos Aires, and, after three years, entered the Society of Jesus as a novice on 11 March 1958. Bergoglio has said that, as a young seminarian, he had a crush on a girl he met and briefly doubted about continuing the religious career. As a Jesuit novice he studied humanities in Santiago, Chile. At the conclusion of his novitiate in the Society of Jesus, Bergoglio officially became a Jesuit on 12 March 1960, when he made the religious profession of the initial, perpetual vows of poverty, chastity and obedience of a member of the order.
In 1960, Bergoglio obtained a licentiate in philosophy from the Colegio Máximo de San José in San Miguel, Buenos Aires Province. He taught literature and psychology at the Colegio de la Inmaculada Concepción, a high school in Santa Fe, from 1964 to 1965. In 1966 he taught the same courses at the Colegio del Salvador in Buenos Aires. In 1967, Bergoglio finished his theological studies and was ordained to the priesthood on 13 December 1969, by Archbishop Ramón José Castellano. He attended the Facultades de Filosofía y Teología de San Miguel (Philosophical and Theological Faculty of San Miguel), a seminary in San Miguel. He served as the master of novices for the province there and became a professor of theology.
Bergoglio completed his final stage of spiritual training as a Jesuit, tertianship, at Alcalá de Henares, Spain. He took the final fourth vow (obedience to the pope) in the Society of Jesus on 22 April 1973. He was named provincial superior of the Society of Jesus in Argentina on 31 July 1973 and served until 1979. He made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1973, shortly after being named provincial superior, but his stay was shortened by the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War. After the completion of his term of office, in 1980 he was named the rector of the Philosophical and Theological Faculty of San Miguel in San Miguel. Before taking up this new appointment, he spent the first three months of 1980 in Ireland to learn English, staying at the Jesuit Centre at the Milltown Institute of Theology and Philosophy, Dublin. After returning to Argentina to take up his new post at San Miguel, Father Bergoglio served in that capacity until 1986. He was removed as rector by the Jesuit superior-general Peter Hans Kolvenbach because Bergoglio’s policy of educating the young Jesuits in direct pastoral work and in popular religiosity was opposed to the world-wide trend in the Society of Jesus of emphasizing social justice based on sociological analysis, especially promoted by the Centro de Investigaciones y Accion Social (CIAS).
He spent several months at the Sankt Georgen Graduate School of Philosophy and Theology in Frankfurt, Germany, while considering possible dissertation topics, before returning to Argentina to serve as a confessor and spiritual director to the Jesuit community in Córdoba. In Germany, he saw the painting Mary Untier of Knots in Augsburg and brought a copy of the painting to Argentina where it has become an important Marian devotion.[c] As a student at the Salesian school, Bergoglio was mentored by Ukrainian Greek Catholic priest Stefan Czmil. Bergoglio often rose hours before his classmates to serve Mass for Czmil.
Because of continued tensions with leaders and scholars connected with the Centro de Investigaciones y Accion Social (CIAS), a sense of Bergoglio’s “dissent”, and his work as auxiliary bishop of Buenos Aires, he was asked in 1992 by Jesuit authorities not to reside in Jesuit houses. From then on, he did not visit Jesuit houses until after his election as Pope.
Bergoglio was named Auxiliary Bishop of Buenos Aires in 1992 and ordained on 27 June 1992 as Titular Bishop of Auca, with Cardinal Antonio Quarracino, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, serving as principal consecrator. He chose as his episcopal motto Miserando atque eligendo. It is drawn from Saint Bede‘s homily on Matthew 9:9–13: “because he saw him through the eyes of mercy and chose him”.
On 3 June 1997, Bergoglio was appointed Coadjutor Archbishop of Buenos Aires with right of automatic succession. Upon Quarracino’s death on 28 February 1998, Bergoglio became Metropolitan Archbishop of Buenos Aires. In that role, Bergoglio created new parishes and restructured the archdiocese administrative offices, led pro-life initiatives, and created a commission on divorces. One of Bergoglio’s major initiatives as archbishop was to increase the Church’s presence in the slums of Buenos Aires. Under his leadership, the number of priests assigned to work in the slums doubled. This work led to him being called the “Slum Bishop”.
Early in his time as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Bergoglio sold off the archdiocese’s shares in multiple banks and turned its accounts into those of a normal customer in international banks. The shares in banks had led the local church to a high leniency towards high spending, and the archdiocese was nearing bankruptcy as a result. As a normal customer of the bank, the church was forced into a higher fiscal discipline.
On 6 November 1998, while remaining Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he was named ordinary for those Eastern Catholics in Argentina who lacked a prelate of their own rite. Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk has said that Bergoglio understands the liturgy, rites, and spirituality of his Greek Catholic Church and always “took care of our Church in Argentina” as ordinary for Eastern Catholics during his time as Archbishop of Buenos Aires.
In 2000, Bergoglio was the only church official to reconcile with Jerónimo Podestá, a former bishop who had been suspended as a priest after opposing the Argentine Revolution military dictatorship in 1972. He defended Podestá’s wife from Vatican attacks on their marriage. That same year, Bergoglio said the Argentine Catholic Church needed “to put on garments of public penance for the sins committed during the years of the dictatorship” in the 1970s, during the Dirty War.
Bergoglio made it his custom to celebrate the Holy Thursday ritual washing of feet in places such as jails, hospitals, retirement homes or slums. In 2007, just two days after Benedict XVI issued new rules for using the liturgical forms that preceded the Second Vatican Council, Cardinal Bergoglio was one of the first bishops in the world to respond by instituting a Tridentine Mass in Buenos Aires. It was celebrated weekly.
On 8 November 2005, Bergoglio was elected president of the Argentine Episcopal Conference for a three-year term (2005–08). He was reelected to another three-year term on 11 November 2008. He remained a member of that commission’s permanent governing body, president of its committee for the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina, and a member of its liturgy committee for the care of shrines. While head of the Argentine Catholic bishops’ conference, Bergoglio issued a collective apology for his church’s failure to protect people from the Junta during the Dirty War. When he turned 75 in December 2011, Bergoglio submitted his resignation as Archbishop of Buenos Aires to Pope Benedict XVI as required by canon law. Still, as he had no coadjutor archbishop, he stayed in office, waiting for an eventual replacement appointed by the Vatican.
At the consistory of 21 February 2001, Archbishop Bergoglio was created a cardinal by Pope John Paul II with the title of cardinal-priest of San Roberto Bellarmino, a church served by Jesuits and named for one. When he traveled to Rome for the ceremony, he and his sister María Elena visited the village in northern Italy where their father was born. As cardinal, Bergoglio was appointed to five administrative positions in the Roman Curia. He was a member of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the Congregation for the Clergy, the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, the Pontifical Council for the Family and the Commission for Latin America. Later that year, when Cardinal Edward Egan returned to New York following the September 11 attacks, Bergoglio replaced him as relator (recording secretary) in the Synod of Bishops, and, according to the Catholic Herald, created “a favourable impression as a man open to communion and dialogue”.
Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio in 2008
Cardinal Bergoglio became known for personal humility, doctrinal conservatism, and a commitment to social justice. A simple lifestyle contributed to his reputation for humility. He lived in a small apartment, rather than in the elegant bishop’s residence in the suburb of Olivos. He took public transportation and cooked his own meals. He limited his time in Rome to “lightning visits”. He was known to be devoted to St. Therese of Lisieux, and he enclosed a small picture of her in the letters he wrote, calling her “a great missionary saint”.
After Pope John Paul II died on 2 April 2005, Bergoglio attended his funeral and was considered one of the papabile for succession to the papacy. He participated as a cardinal elector in the 2005 papal conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI. In the National Catholic Reporter, John L. Allen, Jr. reported that Bergoglio was a frontrunner in the 2005 conclave. In September 2005, the Italian magazine Limes published claims that Bergoglio had been the runner-up and main challenger to Cardinal Ratzinger at that conclave and that he had received 40 votes in the third ballot, but fell back to 26 at the fourth and decisive ballot. The claims were based on a diary purportedly belonging to an anonymous cardinal who had been present at the conclave. According to the Italian journalist Andrea Tornielli, this number of votes had no precedent for a Latin American papabile. La Stampa reported that Bergoglio was in close contention with Ratzinger during the election, until he made an emotional plea that the cardinals should not vote for him. According to Tornielli, Bergoglio made this request to prevent the conclave from delaying too much in the election of a pope.
As a cardinal, Bergoglio was associated with Communion and Liberation, a Catholic evangelical lay movement of the type known as associations of the faithful. He sometimes made appearances at the annual gathering known as the Rimini Meeting held during the late summer months in Italy. In 2005, Cardinal Bergoglio authorized the request for beatification—the third step towards sainthood—for six members of the Pallottine community murdered in the San Patricio Church massacre. At the same time, Bergoglio ordered an investigation into the murders themselves, which had been widely blamed on the National Reorganization Process, the military junta that ruled Argentina at the time.
Relations with Argentine governments
Bergoglio was the subject of allegations regarding the kidnapping of two Jesuit priests during Argentina’s Dirty War. He feared for the priests’ safety and had tried to change their work prior to their arrest; however, contrary to reports, he never tried to throw them out of the Jesuit order. In 2005, Myriam Bregman, a human rights lawyer, filed a criminal complaint against Bergoglio, as superior in the Society of Jesus of Argentina, accusing him of involvement in the Navy’s kidnapping of the two priests in May 1976. The lawyer’s complaint did not specify the nature of Bergoglio’s alleged involvement, and Bergoglio’s spokesman flatly denied the allegations. The lawsuit was ultimately dismissed. The priests, Orlando Yorio and Franz Jalics, had been tortured, but found alive five months later, drugged and semi-naked. Yorio accused Bergoglio of effectively handing them over to the death squads by declining to tell the authorities that he endorsed their work. Yorio, who died in 2000, said in a 1999 interview that he believed that Bergoglio did nothing “to free us, in fact just the opposite”. Jalics initially refused to discuss the complaint after moving into seclusion in a German monastery. However, two days after the election of Pope Francis, Jalics issued a statement confirming the kidnapping and attributing the cause to a former lay colleague who became a guerrilla, was captured, and named Yorio and Jalics when interrogated. The following week, Jalics issued a second, clarifying statement: “It is wrong to assert that our capture took place at the initiative of Father Bergoglio … the fact is, Orlando Yorio and I were not denounced by Father Bergoglio.”
Bergoglio told his authorized biographer, Sergio Rubin, that after the priests’ imprisonment, he worked behind the scenes for their release; Bergoglio’s intercession with dictator Jorge Rafael Videla on their behalf may have saved their lives. Bergoglio also told Rubin that he had often sheltered people from the dictatorship on church property, and once gave his own identity papers to a man who looked like him, so he could flee Argentina. The interview with Rubin, reflected in the biography El jesuita, is the only time Bergoglio has spoken to the press about those events. Alicia Oliveira, a former Argentine judge, has also reported that Bergoglio helped people flee Argentina during the rule of the junta. Since Francis became Pope, Gonzalo Mosca and José Caravias have related to journalists accounts of how Bergoglio helped them flee the Argentine dictatorship.
Oliveira described the future Pope as “anguished” and “very critical of the dictatorship” during the Dirty War. Oliveira met with him at the time and urged Bergoglio to speak out—he told her that “he couldn’t. That it wasn’t an easy thing to do.” Artist and human rights activist Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, the 1980 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, said: “Perhaps he didn’t have the courage of other priests, but he never collaborated with the dictatorship … Bergoglio was no accomplice of the dictatorship.” Graciela Fernández Meijide, member of the Permanent Assembly for Human Rights, also said that there was no proof linking Bergoglio with the dictatorship. She told to the Clarín newspaper: “There is no information and Justice couldn’t prove it. I was in the APDH during all the dictatorship years and I received hundreds of testimonies. Bergoglio was never mentioned. It was the same in the CONADEP. Nobody mentioned him as instigator or as anything.” Ricardo Lorenzetti, President of the Argentine Supreme Court, also has said that Bergoglio is “completely innocent” of the accusations. Historian Uki Goñi pointed that, during the early 1976, the military junta still had a good image among society, and that the scale of the political repression was not known until much later; Bergoglio would have had little reason to suspect that the detention of Yorio and Jalics could end up in their deaths.
When Bergoglio became Pope, an alleged photo of him giving the sacramental bread to dictator Jorge Rafael Videla became viral in social networks. It has also been used by the newspaper Página/12. The photo was soon proved to be false. It was revealed that the priest, whose face is not visible in the photo, was Carlos Berón de Astrada. The photo was taken at the church “Pequeña Obra de la Divina Providencia Don Orione” in 1990, not during the Dirty War, and after Videla’s presidential pardon. The photo was produced by the agency AFP and it was initially published by the Crónica newspaper.
Fernando de la Rúa
Fernando de la Rúa replaced Carlos Menem as president of Argentina in 1999. As an archbishop, Bergoglio celebrated the annual Mass at the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral on the First National Government holiday, 25 May. In 2000, Bergoglio criticized the perceived apathy of society. Argentina faced an economic depression at the time, and the Church criticized the fiscal austerity of the government, which increased poverty. De la Rúa asked the Church to promote a dialogue between the leaders of economic and political sectors to find a solution for the crisis. He claims that he talked with Bergoglio and proposed to take part in the meeting, but Bergoglio would have told him that the meeting was cancelled because of a misunderstanding by De la Rúa’s assistant, who may have declined the president’s assistance. Bishop Jorge Casaretto considers it unlikely, as De la Rúa only made the request in newspaper interviews, but never made a formal request to the Church.
The Justicialist Party won the 2001 elections and got the majority in the Congress, and appointed Ramón Puerta as president of the Senate. As vice president Carlos Álvarez resigned shortly before, this left an opposing party second in the order of precedence. Bergoglio asked for an interview with Puerta, and had a positive impression of him. Puerta told him that the Justicialist party was not plotting to oust De la Rúa, and promised to help the president promote the laws that may be required.
During police repression of the riots of December 2001, he contacted the Ministry of the Interior and asked that the police distinguish rioters engaged in acts of vandalism from peaceful protesters.
When Bergoglio celebrated Mass at the Cathedral for the 2004 First National Government holiday, President Néstor Kirchner attended and heard Bergoglio request more political dialogue, reject intolerance, and criticize exhibitionism and strident announcements. Kirchner celebrated the national day elsewhere the following year and the Mass in the Cathedral was suspended. In 2006, Bergoglio helped the fellow Jesuit Joaquín Piña to win the elections in the Misiones Province and prevent an amendment of the local constitution that would allow indefinite re-elections. Kirchner intended to use that project to start similar amendments at other provinces, and eventually to the national constitution. Kirchner considered Bergoglio as a political rival to the day he died in October 2010. Bergoglio’s relations with Kirchner’s widow and successor, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, have been similarly tense. In 2008, Bergoglio called for national reconciliation during disturbances in the country’s agricultural regions, which the government interpreted as a support for anti-government demonstrators. The campaign to enact same-sex marriage legislation was a particularly tense period in their relations.
When Bergoglio was elected Pope, the initial reactions were mixed. Most of the Argentine society cheered it, but the pro-government newspaper Página/12 published renewed allegations about the Dirty War, and the president of the National Library described a global conspiracy theory. The president took more than an hour to congratulate him, and only did so in a passing reference within a routine speech. However, due to the Pope’s popularity in Argentina, Cristina Kirchner made what the political analyst Claudio Fantini called a “Copernican shift” in her relation with him and fully embraced the Francis phenomenon. On the day before his inauguration as pope, Bergoglio, now Francis, had a private meeting with Kirchner. They exchanged gifts and lunched together. This was the new pope’s first meeting with a head of state, and there was speculation that the two were mending their relations. Página/12 removed their controversial articles about Bergoglio, written by Horacio Verbitsky, from their web page, as a result of this change.
Ecumenism with other Christians
In a notable interview with La Stampa, Pope Francis emphasized his commitment to ecumenism, stating: “For me, ecumenism is a priority. Today, we have the ecumenism of blood. In some countries they kill Christians because they wear a cross or have a Bible, and before killing them they don’t ask if they’re Anglicans, Lutherans, Catholics or Orthodox. The blood is mixed.” During the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Pope Francis addressed the attendees of the John 17 Movement gathering opining that “Division is the work of the Father of Lies” and that he “knows that Christians are disciples of Christ: that they are one, that they are brothers! He doesn’t care if they are Evangelicals, or Orthodox, Lutherans, Catholics or Apostolic…he doesn’t care! They are Christians. And that blood (of martyrdom) unites. Today, dear brothers and sisters, we are living an ‘ecumenism of blood’. This must encourage us to do what we are doing today: to pray, to dialogue together, to shorten the distance between us, to strengthen our bonds of brotherhood.” During the 2016 Octave of Christian Unity, Pope Francis “asked forgiveness for the way Catholics had treated other Christian believers over the years, and also invited Catholics to pardon those who had persecuted them.”
Bergoglio is recognized for his efforts “to further close the nearly 1,000-year estrangement with the Orthodox Churches“. Antoni Sevruk, rector of the Russian Orthodox Church of Saint Catherine the Great Martyr in Rome, said that Bergoglio “often visited Orthodox services in the Russian Orthodox Annunciation Cathedral in Buenos Aires” and is known as an advocate on behalf of the Orthodox Church in dealing with Argentina’s government.
Bergoglio’s positive relationship with the Eastern Orthodox churches is reflected in the fact that Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople attended his installation. This is the first time since the Great Schism of 1054 that the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, a position considered first among equals in the Eastern Orthodox Church organization, has attended a papal installation. Orthodox leaders state that Bartholomew’s decision to attend the ceremony shows that the relationship between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches is a priority of his, but they also note that Francis’ “well-documented work for social justice and his insistence that globalization is detrimental to the poor” may have created a “renewed opportunity” for the two Church communities to “work collectively on issues of mutual concern”.[d]
On 12 February 2016, Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, head of the largest Eastern Orthodox church, met in Havana, Cuba, issuing the Joint Declaration of Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill, calling for restored Christian unity between the two churches. This was reported as the first such high-level meeting between the two churches since the Great Schism of 1054.
Gregory Venables, Anglican Bishop of Argentina and former Primate of the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone of America, said that Cardinal Bergoglio had told him very clearly that the personal ordinariates established within the Catholic Church for groups of former Anglicans was “quite unnecessary” and that the Catholic Church needed Anglicans as Anglicans. A spokesman for the ordinariates said the words were those of Venables, not the Pope. Pope Francis met for the first time the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, when he visited the Vatican, on 14 June 2013. The Roman Pontiff said that they both shared the same concerns for social justice, peace and the promotion of Christian values, in matters like marriage. The second meeting took place at the Vatican, on 16 June 2014, with Pope Francis and Justin Welby recommitting themselves to work against modern slavery and human trafficking. Pope Francis has expressed his support for the Anglican realignment, sending through his personal friend, Gregory Venables, a message to the Archbishop Foley Beach of the Anglican Church in North America, a newly formed church outside of the Anglican Communion and not officially recognized by the Archbishop of Canterbury, with his “personal greetings and congratulations as he leads his church in the very important job of revival” and asking Venables to embrace him on his behalf. It was presented during Archbishop Beach’s enthronement, which took place at the Church of the Apostles in Atlanta, Georgia, on 9 October 2014.
Cardinal Bergoglio frequently recommended his personal friend Manuel Acuña, a Lutheran pastor, to perform exorcisms on individuals in whom there were signs of demonic possession. Mark Hanson, then presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), greeted the news of Bergoglio’s election with a public statement that praised his work with Lutherans in Argentina.
Evangelical Christian leaders, including Argentine Luis Palau, welcomed the news of Bergoglio’s election as Pope based on his relations with Evangelical Protestants, noting that Bergoglio’s financial manager for the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires was an Evangelical Christian whom Bergoglio refers to as a friend. Palau recounted how Bergoglio would not only relax and “drink mate” with that friend, but would also read the Bible and pray with him, based on what Bergoglio called a relationship of friendship and trust. Palau described Bergoglio’s approach to relationships with Evangelicals as one of “building bridges and showing respect, knowing the differences, but majoring on what we can agree on: on the divinity of Jesus, his virgin birth, his resurrection, the second coming.” As a result of Bergoglio’s election, Palau predicted that “tensions will be eased.”
Juan Pablo Bongarrá, president of the Argentine Bible Society, recounted that Bergoglio not only met with Evangelicals and prayed with them, he also asked them to pray for him. Bongarrá noted that Bergoglio would frequently end a conversation with the request, “Pastor, pray for me.” Additionally, Bongarrá told the story of a weekly worship meeting of charismatic pastors in Buenos Aires, which Bergoglio attended: “He mounted the platform and called for pastors to pray for him. He knelt in front of nearly 6,000 people, and [the Protestant leaders there] laid hands and prayed.”
Other Evangelical Christian leaders agreed that Bergoglio’s relationships in Argentina made him “situated to better understand Protestantism” than had his predecessor Pope Benedict, “who often referred to Protestantism as a ‘sect’ of Christianity”. Noting that the divide between Catholicism and Protestantism is often present among members of the same families in Argentina, and is therefore an extremely important human issue, Evangelical author Chris Castaldo said that Francis could set the tone for more compassionate conversations among families about the differences between Protestantism and Catholicism.
Bergoglio has written about his commitment to open and respectful interfaith dialogue as a way for all parties engaged in that dialogue to learn from one another. In the 2011 book that records his conversations with Rabbi Abraham Skorka, On Heaven and Earth, Bergoglio said:
Dialogue is born from an attitude of respect for the other person, from a conviction that the other person has something good to say. It assumes that there is room in the heart for the person’s point of view, opinion, and proposal. Dialogue entails a cordial reception, not a prior condemnation. In order to dialogue it is necessary to know how to lower the defenses, open the doors of the house, and offer human warmth.
Religious leaders in Buenos Aires have mentioned that Bergoglio promoted interfaith ceremonies at the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral. For example, in November 2012 he brought leaders of the Jewish, Muslim, Evangelical, and Orthodox Christian faiths together to pray for a peaceful solution to the Middle East conflicts. Rabbi Alejandro Avruj praised Bergoglio’s interest in interfaith dialogue and his commitment to mend religious divisions.
Shortly after his election, the pope called for more interreligious dialogue as a way of “building bridges” and establishing “true links of friendship between all people”. He added that it was crucial “to intensify outreach to nonbelievers, so that the differences which divide and hurt us may never prevail”. He said that his title of “pontiff” means “builder of bridges”, and that it was his wish that “the dialogue between us should help to build bridges connecting all people, in such a way that everyone can see in the other not an enemy, not a rival, but a brother or sister to be welcomed and embraced.”
On 24 May 2014, Pope Francis arrived in Jordan, at the start of a tour of the Middle East, “aiming to boost ties with Muslims and Jews as well as easing an age-old rift within Christianity”.
In a 2016 survey, Francis was viewed favourably by almost two thirds of Jews, as well as majorities of Protestants and the irreligious; minorities of Buddhists and Muslims had favourable views of him.
Bergoglio has close ties to the Jewish community of Argentina, and attended Rosh Hashanah (Jewish new year) services in 2007 at a synagogue in Buenos Aires. He told the Jewish congregation during his visit that he went to the synagogue to examine his heart, “like a pilgrim, together with you, my elder brothers”. After the 1994 AMIA bombing of a Jewish Community Center that killed 85 people, Bergoglio was the first public figure to sign a petition condemning the attack and calling for justice. Jewish community leaders around the world noted that his words and actions “showed solidarity with the Jewish community” in the aftermath of this attack.
A former head of the World Jewish Congress, Israel Singer, reported that he worked with Bergoglio in the early 2000s, distributing aid to the poor as part of a joint Jewish–Catholic program called “Tzedaká“. Singer noted that he was impressed with Bergoglio’s modesty, remembering that “if everyone sat in chairs with handles [arms], he would sit in the one without.” Bergoglio also co-hosted a Kristallnacht memorial ceremony at the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral in 2012, and joined a group of clerics from a number of different religions to light candles in a 2012 synagogue ceremony on the occasion of the Jewish festival of Hanukkah.
Pope Francis blessed the cornerstone for the building of the museum devoted to wartime Polish rescuers of Jews which is being built in the Polish village of Markowa; where the family of Józef and Wiktoria Ulma, who are now Servants of God as the Vatican is studying their cause for sainthood, were shot by the Germans for hiding their Jewish neighbors.
Abraham Skorka, the rector of the Latin-American Rabbinical Seminary in Buenos Aires, and Bergoglio published their conversations on religious and philosophical subjects as Sobre el cielo y la tierra (On Heaven and Earth). An editorial in Israel‘s Jerusalem Post notes that “Unlike John Paul II, who as a child had positive memories of the Jews of his native Poland but due to the Holocaust had no Jewish community to interact with in Poland as an adult, Pope Francis has maintained a sustained and very positive relationship with a living, breathing [Jewish] community in Buenos Aires.”
One of the pope’s first official actions was writing a letter to Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni, the Chief Rabbi of Rome, inviting him to the papal installation and sharing his hope of collaboration between the Catholic and Jewish communities. Addressing representatives of Jewish organizations and communities, Francis said that, “due to our common roots [a] Christian cannot be anti-Semitic!”
Muslim leaders in Buenos Aires welcomed the news of Bergoglio’s election as pope, noting that he “always showed himself as a friend of the Islamic community”, and a person whose position is “pro-dialogue”. They praised Bergoglio’s close ties with Muslim groups and noted his comments when Pope Benedict’s 2006 Regensburg lecture was interpreted by many as denigrating Islam. According to them, Bergoglio immediately distanced himself from Benedict’s language and said that statements which provoked outrage with Muslims would “serve to destroy in 20 seconds the careful construction of a relationship with Islam that Pope John Paul II built over the last 20 years.”
Bergoglio visited both a mosque and an Islamic school in Argentina; visits that the Director for the Diffusion of Islam, Sheik Mohsen Ali, called actions that strengthened the relationship between the Catholic and Islamic communities. Sumer Noufouri, Secretary General of the Islamic Center of the Argentine Republic (CIRA), added that for Muslims, Bergoglio’s past actions make his election as pope a cause of “joy and expectation of strengthening dialogue between religions”. Noufouri said that the relationship between CIRA and Bergoglio over the course of a decade had helped to build up Christian–Muslim dialogue in a way that was “really significant in the history of monotheistic relations in Argentina”.
Ahmed el-Tayeb, Grand Imam of al-Azhar and president of Egypt’s Al-Azhar University, sent congratulations after the pope’s election. Al-Tayeb had “broken off relations with the Vatican” during Benedict XVI’s time as pope; his message of congratulations also included the request that “Islam asks for respect from the new pontiff”.
Shortly after his election, in a meeting with ambassadors from the 180 countries accredited with the Holy See, Pope Francis called for more interreligious dialogue—”particularly with Islam”. He also expressed gratitude that “so many civil and religious leaders from the Islamic world” had attended his installation Mass. An editorial in the Saudi Arabian paper Saudi Gazette strongly welcomed the pope’s call for increased interfaith dialogue, stressing that while the pope was “reiterating a position he has always maintained”, his public call as pope for increased dialogue with Islam “comes as a breath of fresh air at a time when much of the Western world is experiencing a nasty outbreak of Islamophobia“.
In 2016, Pope Francis met with Ahmed el-Tayeb at the Vatican, the first meeting since 2000 between the Grand Imam of al-Azhar and the leader of the world’s Catholics.
Attitudes about non-believers
Speaking to journalists and media employees on 16 March 2013, Pope Francis said he would bless them silently, “Given that many of you do not belong to the Catholic Church, and others are not believers.” In his papal address on 20 March, he said the “attempt to eliminate God and the Divine from the horizon of humanity” resulted in violence, but described as well his feelings about nonbelievers: “[W]e also sense our closeness to all those men and women who, although not identifying themselves as followers of any religious tradition, are nonetheless searching for truth, goodness and beauty, the truth, goodness and beauty of God. They are our valued allies in the commitment to defending human dignity, in building a peaceful coexistence between peoples and in safeguarding and caring for creation.”
Some atheists expressed hope that Francis would prove to be progressive on issues like poverty and social inequality, while others were more skeptical that he would be “interested in a partnership of equals”. In May 2013, Francis said that all who do good can be redeemed through Jesus, including atheists. Francis stated that God “has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! Even the atheists, Everyone!” Amid the controversy that ensued, Carl E. Olson pointed out that Francis’ words were fundamental Christian teaching dating back to the Apostle Paul and Fr. Dwight Longenecker wrote, “Unfortunately for those who wish to paint Pope Francis as a lovable liberal, in fact, the Pope is simply affirming certain truths that any somewhat knowledgable Catholic will uphold.” A spokesman for the Vatican, Father Thomas Rosica, issued an “explanatory note” that non-Catholics who “know” the Roman Catholic Church but do not convert “cannot be saved”, and only those who “sincerely seek God … can attain eternal salvation”. Hendrik Hertzberg criticised Rosica in the The New Yorker magazine, and speculated that there may be major internal disagreement between supporters and opponents of Vatican II in the Catholic Church.
In September 2013, Francis wrote an open letter to the founder of La Repubblica newspaper, Eugenio Scalfari, stating that non-believers would be forgiven by God if they followed their consciences. Responding to a list of questions published in the paper by Scalfari, who is not a Roman Catholic, Francis wrote: “You ask me if the God of the Christians forgives those who don’t believe and who don’t seek the faith. I start by saying—and this is the fundamental thing—that God’s mercy has no limits if you go to him with a sincere and contrite heart. The issue for those who do not believe in God is to obey their conscience. Sin, even for those who have no faith, exists when people disobey their conscience.”
Elected at the age of 76, Francis was reported to be healthy and his doctors have stated that his missing lung tissue, removed in his youth, does not have a significant impact on his health. The only concern would be decreased respiratory reserve if he had a respiratory infection. In the past, one attack of sciatica in 2007 prevented him from attending a consistory and delayed his return to Argentina for several days.
Francis is the first Jesuit pope. This was an unexpected appointment, because of the tense relations between the Society of Jesus and the Holy See. He is also the first from the Americas, and the first from the Southern Hemisphere. Many media reported him as being the first non-European pope, but he is actually the 11th. The previous one was from Syria, Gregory III in 741; 1,272 years earlier. However, although Francis does not have a European nationality, he has a European ethnicity.
As pope, his manner is less formal than that of his predecessors: a style that news coverage has referred to as “no frills,” noting that it is “his common touch and accessibility that is proving the greatest inspiration.” On the night of his election, he took the bus back to his hotel with the cardinals, rather than be driven in the papal car. The next day, he visited Cardinal Jorge María Mejía in the hospital and chatted with patients and staff. At his first media audience, the Friday after his election, the Pope said of Saint Francis of Assisi: “The man who gives us this spirit of peace, the poor man”, and he added “[h]ow I would like a poor Church, and for the poor”.
In addition to his native Spanish, Francis is also conversant in Latin (the official language of the Holy See), he speaks fluent Italian, (the official language of Vatican City and the “everyday language” of the Holy See), German, French, Portuguese, English, and he understands the Piedmontese language and some Genoese.
Francis chose not to live in the official papal residence in the Apostolic Palace, but to remain in the Vatican guest house, in a suite in which he can receive visitors and hold meetings. He is the first pope since Pope Pius X to live outside the papal apartments. Francis still appears at the window of the Apostolic Palace for the Sunday Angelus.
Francis appears to the public for the first time as pope, at the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, 13 March 2013.
Bergoglio was elected pope on 13 March 2013, the second day of the 2013 papal conclave, taking the papal name Francis. Francis was elected on the fifth ballot of the conclave. The Habemus Papam was delivered by Cardinal protodeacon Jean-Louis Tauran. Cardinal Christoph Schönborn later said that Bergoglio was elected following two supernatural signs, one in the conclave and hence confidential, and a Latin-American couple of friends of Schönborn who whispered Bergoglio’s name in Schönborn’s ear; Schönborn commented “if these people say Bergoglio, that’s an indication of the Holy Spirit”.
Instead of accepting his cardinals’ congratulations while seated on the Papal throne, Francis received them standing, reportedly an immediate sign of a changing approach to formalities at the Vatican. During his first appearance as pontiff on the balcony of Saint Peter’s Basilica, he wore a white cassock, not the red, ermine-trimmed mozzetta used by the previous Popes. He also wore the same iron pectoral cross that he had worn as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, rather than the gold one worn by his predecessors.
After being elected and choosing his name, his first act was bestowing the Urbi et Orbi blessing to thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square. Before blessing the crowd, he asked those in St. Peter’s Square to pray for his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, and for himself.
Pope Francis held his Papal inauguration on 19 March 2013 in St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican. He celebrated Mass in the presence of various political and religious leaders from around the world. In his homily Pope Francis focused on the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, the liturgical day on which the Mass was celebrated.
At his first audience on 16 March 2013, Francis told journalists that he had chosen the name in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi, and had done so because he was especially concerned for the well-being of the poor. He explained that, as it was becoming clear during the conclave voting that he would be elected the new bishop of Rome, the Brazilian Cardinal Cláudio Hummes had embraced him and whispered, “Don’t forget the poor”, which had made Bergoglio think of the saint. Bergoglio had previously expressed his admiration for St. Francis, explaining that “He brought to Christianity an idea of poverty against the luxury, pride, vanity of the civil and ecclesiastical powers of the time. He changed history.”
This is the first time that a pope has been named Francis. On the day of his election, the Vatican clarified that his official papal name was “Francis”, not “Francis I”, i.e. no regnal number is used for him. A Vatican spokesman said that the name would become Francis I if and when there is a Francis II. It is the first time since Pope Lando‘s 913–914 reign that a serving pope holds a name not used by a predecessor.[e]
Francis also said that some cardinal-electors had jokingly suggested to him that he should choose either “Adrian”, since Pope Adrian VI had been a reformer of the church, or “Clement” to settle the score with Pope Clement XIV, who had suppressed the Jesuit order. In February 2014, it was reported that Bergoglio, had he been elected in 2005, would have chosen the pontifical name of “John XXIV” in honor of Pope John XXIII. It was said that he told Cardinal Francesco Marchisano: “John, I would have called myself John, like the Good Pope; I would have been completely inspired by him”.
Inauguration of Pope Francis, 19 March 2013
On 16 March 2013, Pope Francis asked all those in senior positions of the Roman Curia to provisionally continue in office. He named Alfred Xuereb as his personal secretary. On 6 April he named José Rodríguez Carballo as secretary for the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, a position that had been vacant for several months. Francis abolished the bonuses paid to Vatican employees upon the election of a new pope, amounting to several million Euros, opting instead to donate the money to charity. He also abolished the €25,000 annual bonus paid to the cardinals serving on the Board of Supervisors for the Vatican bank.
On 13 April 2013, he named eight cardinals to a new Council of Cardinal Advisers to advise him on revising the organizational structure of the Roman Curia. The group included several known as critics of Vatican operations and only one member of the Curia. They are Giuseppe Bertello, president of the Vatican City State governorate; Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa from Chile; Oswald Gracias from India; Reinhard Marx from Germany; Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya from the Democratic Republic of the Congo; George Pell from Australia; Seán O’Malley from the United States; and Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga from Honduras. He appointed Bishop Marcello Semeraro secretary for the group and scheduled its first meeting for 1–3 October.
In March 2013, 21 British Catholic peers and Members of Parliament from all parties asked Francis to allow married men in Great Britain to be ordained as priests, keeping celibacy as the rule for bishops. They asked it on the grounds that it would be anomalous that married Anglican priests can be received into the Catholic Church and ordained as priests, by means of either the Pastoral Provision of 20 June 1980 or the 2009 Anglican ordinariate, but married Catholic men cannot do the same.
Fouad Twal, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, included a call in his 2013 Easter homily for the Pope to visit Jerusalem. Louis Raphael I, the Chaldean Catholic Patriarch, asked the Pope to visit the “embattled Christian community” in Iraq.
On the first Holy Thursday following his election, Francis washed and kissed the feet of ten male and two female juvenile offenders, not all Catholic, aged from 14 to 21, imprisoned at Rome’s Casal del Marmo detention facility, telling them the ritual of foot washing is a sign that he is at their service. This was the first time that a pope had included women in this ritual; although he had already done so when he was archbishop. One of the male and one of the female offenders was a Muslim.
On 31 March 2013 Francis used his first Easter homily to make a plea for peace throughout the world, specifically mentioning the Middle East, Africa, and North and South Korea. He also spoke out against those who give in to “easy gain” in a world filled with greed, and made a plea for humanity to become a better guardian of creation by protecting the environment. He said that “[w]e ask the risen Jesus, who turns death into life, to change hatred into love, vengeance into forgiveness, war into peace.” Although the Vatican had prepared greetings in 65 languages, Francis chose not to read them. According to the Vatican, the pope “at least for now, feels at ease using Italian, the everyday language of the Holy See”.
In 2013, Francis initially reaffirmed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith‘s program to reform the U.S. Leadership Conference of Women Religious, initiated under his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI. The New York Times reported that the Vatican had formed the opinion in 2012 that the sisters’ group was tinged with feminist influences, focused too much on ending social and economic injustice and not enough on stopping abortion, and permitted speakers at its meetings who questioned church doctrine. However, in April 2015 the investigation was brought to a close. The timing of the closure may have anticipated a visit by Francis to the U.S. in September 2015.
On 12 May, Francis carried out his first canonizations of candidates approved for sainthood during the reign of Benedict XVI: the first Colombian saint, Laura of Saint Catherine of Siena, the second female Mexican saint, Maria Guadalupe Garcia Zavala, both of the 20th century, and the 813 15th-century Martyrs of Otranto. He said: “While we venerate the martyrs of Otranto, ask God to support the many Christians who still suffer from violence and give them the courage and fate and respond to evil with goodness.” He also commented on abortion, saying legislation should be introduced to “protect all human beings from the first moment of their existence.”
Consultation with Catholic laity
A February 2014 survey by World Values Survey cited in The Washington Post and Time shows how the unity Pope Francis had created could be challenged. Although views about Francis personally were favorable, many Catholics disagreed with at least some of his teachings. The survey found that members of the Roman Catholic Church are deeply divided over abortion, artificial contraception, divorce, the ordination of women, and married priests. In the same month Pope Francis asked parishes to provide answers to an official questionnaire described as a “much broader consultation than just a survey” regarding opinions among the laity. He continued to assert Catholic doctrine, in less dramatic tone than his recent predecessors, who maintained that the Catholic Church is not a democracy of popular opinion.
Linda Woodhead of Lancaster University wrote of the survey Francis initiated, “it’s not a survey in any sense that a social scientist would recognize.” Woodhead said that many ordinary Catholics would have difficulty understanding theological jargon there. Nonetheless, she suspected the survey might be influential.
The Catholic Church in England and Wales as of April 2014 had refused to publish results of this survey; a Church spokesman said a senior Vatican official had expressly asked for summaries to remain confidential, and that orders had come from the Pope that the information should not be made public until after October. This disappointed many reformers who hoped the laity would be more involved in decision-making. Some other Roman Catholic churches, for example in Germany and Austria, published summaries of the responses to the survey, which showed a wide gap between Church teaching and the behavior of ordinary Catholics.
In a column he wrote for the Vatican’s semi-official newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, the head Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, US Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, who has a long-standing reputation as one of the church’s most vocal conservative hard-liners, said that Pope Francis opposed both abortion and gay marriage. The Vatican’s chief spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, also noted in the Vatican Press Office during the 2014 consistory meetings that Pope Francis and Cardinal Walter Kasper would not change or redefine any dogmas pertaining to Church theology on doctrinal matters.
Institute for the Works of Religion
In the first months of Francis’ papacy, the Institute for the Works of Religion, informally known as the Vatican Bank, said that it would become more transparent in its financial dealings There had long been allegations of corruption and money laundering connected with the bank. Francis appointed a commission to advise him about reform of the Bank, and the finance consulting firm Promontory Financial Group was assigned to carry out a comprehensive investigation of all customer contacts of the bank on these facts. Because of this affair the Promoter of Justice at the Vatican Tribunal applied a letter rogatory for the first time in the history of the Republic of Italy at the beginning of August 2013. In January 2014 Francis replaced four of the five cardinal overseers of the Vatican Bank, who had been confirmed in their positions in the final days of Benedict XVI’s papacy. Lay experts and clerics were looking into how the bank was run. Ernst von Freyberg was put in charge. Moneyval feels more reform is needed, and Francis may be willing to close the bank if the reforms prove too difficult. There is uncertainty how far reforms can succeed.
On 29 June 2013, Pope Francis published his first encyclical, titled Lumen fidei. It is a collaborative writing with Benedict XVI and talks about faith, complementing Benedict’s previous encyclicals on charity and hope. He published his second one, entitled Laudato si’, on 18 June 2015, concerning care for the planet. On 24 November 2013, he published his apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium, with his views on faith and evangelization. On 8 April 2016, Pope Francis published his second apostolic exhortation, Amoris laetitia, remarking on love within the family.
He established two new Secretariats (top-level departments) in the Roman Curia: the Secretariat for the Economy, and the Secretariat for Communications. He reformed the process for declaring matrimonial nullity.
In January 2014, Pope Francis said that he would appoint fewer monsignors and only assign those honored to the lowest of the three surviving ranks of monsignor, Chaplain of His Holiness. It would be awarded only to diocesan priests at least 65 years old. During his 15 years as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Pope Francis never sought the title for any of his priests. It is believed he associates it with clerical careerism and hierarchy.
At the first consistory of his papacy, held on 22 February 2014, Francis created 19 new cardinals. At the time of their elevation to that rank, 16 of these new cardinals were under eighty years of age and thus eligible to vote in a papal conclave. The new appointees included prelates from South America, Africa, and Asia, including appointees in some of the world’s poorest countries, such as Chibly Langlois from Haiti and Philippe Nakellentuba Ouedraogo from Burkina Faso. The consistory was a rare occasion where Francis and his predecessor, Benedict XVI, appeared together in public.
Benedict XVI also attended the second consistory on 14 February 2015, at which Francis elevated 20 new cardinals, with 15 under the age of eighty and five over the age of eighty. The pope continued his practice of appointing cardinals from the peripheries, such as Charles Maung Bo of Myanmar and Soane Patita Paini Mafi of Tonga.
Year of Mercy
With his April 2015 papal bull of indiction, Misericordiae Vultus (Latin: “The Face of Mercy“), Francis inaugurated a Special Jubilee Year of Mercy, to run from 8 December 2015, Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to the last Sunday before Advent and the Solemnity of the Feast of Christ the King of the Universe on 20 November 2016.
The Holy Doors of the major basilicas of Rome (including the Great Door of St. Peter’s) were opened, and special “Doors of Mercy” were opened at cathedrals and other major churches around the world, where the faithful can earn indulgences by fulfilling the usual conditions of prayer for the Pope’s intentions, confession, and detachment from sin, and communion. During Lent of that year, special 24-hour penance services will be celebrated, and during the year, special qualified and experienced priests called “Missionaries of Mercy” will be available in every diocese to forgive even severe, special-case sins normally reserved to the Holy See’s Apostolic Penitentiary.
Francis told La Civiltà Cattolica that the church does not need to speak constantly of the issues of abortion, artificial contraception, and homosexuality. He thought that other issues, notably the duty to help those who are poor and marginalized, have been neglected. He added that the church had focused in trivial issues, and as such should not be so prone to condemn, and that priests should be more welcoming. He said the confessional should be used to motivate people to better themselves.
Pope Francis said that the most powerful message of Jesus Christ is mercy. His motto, Miserando atque eligendo, is about Jesus’ mercy towards sinners. The phrase is taken from a homily of St. Bede, who commented that Jesus “saw the tax collector and, because he saw him through the eyes of mercy and chose him, he said to him: ‘Follow me'”.[f] The motto is a reference to the moment when he found his vocation to the priesthood, at the age of 17. He started a day of student celebrations by going to confession.
As cardinal he thought Christian morality is not a titanic effort of the will, but a response to the mercy of God. It is not a matter of never falling down but of always getting up again. In this sense, he says Christian morality is a revolution. The Gospel reading for the Sunday he was scheduled to give his first public address as pope was on Jesus’ forgiveness of the adulterous woman. This allowed him to discuss the principle that God never wearies of forgiving humans and to stress the importance of never tiring in asking for forgiveness. Because of this emphasis, many have returned to God and to confession, a result which has been called the “Francis effect”.
In March 2015, Pope Francis announced that the universal church would celebrate a Jubilee Year from 8 December 2015 to 20 November 2016, dedicated to the theme of God’s mercy. The Vatican announced the pope would perform several acts to demonstrate the theme of God’s mercy.
Faith and evangelization
Pope Francis’ first encyclical, “Lumen Fidei“, was on faith and his first apostolic exhortation, “Evangelii Gaudium“, was on the new evangelization. In both his first homily as pope and in his first address to the cardinals, Francis talked about walking in the presence of Jesus Christ and stressed the church’s mission to announce him. In the audience with the cardinals, he emphasized the concept of “encounter with Jesus”:
Stimulated by the Year of Faith, all together, pastors and faithful, we will make an effort to respond faithfully to the eternal mission: to bring Jesus Christ to humanity, and to lead humanity to an encounter with Jesus Christ: the Way, the Truth, and the Life, truly present in the Church and, at the same time, in every person. This encounter makes us become new men in the mystery of Grace, provoking in our hearts the Christian joy that is a hundredfold that given us by Christ to those who welcome Him into their lives.
In his homily, he stressed that “if we do not profess Jesus Christ, things go wrong. We may become a charitable NGO, but not the Church, the Bride of the Lord.” He went on to teach that “When we do not profess Jesus Christ, we profess the worldliness of the devil… when we profess Christ without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord, we are worldly”. The theme of rejecting “spiritual worldliness”, described as a leitmotif of his teachings even before he became pope, was emphasized in his first apostolic exhortation. Understanding this worldliness as “putting oneself at the center”, he said that it is the “greatest danger for the Church, for us, who are in the Church”.
After his election Francis stated, “Here too, it helps me to think of the name of Francis [of Assisi], who teaches us profound respect for the whole of creation and the protection of our environment, which all too often, instead of using for the good, we exploit greedily, to one another’s detriment.”. At the University of Molise he described environmental concerns as a great contemporary challenge and voiced opposition to deforestation. He believes that development should respect what Christians see as creation, and that exploiting the earth is sinful. Francis told the Second International Conference on Nutrition, held in Rome by the Food and Agriculture Organization, that a lack of protection for the ecology may generate problems. Francis plans a meeting with leaders of main religions to increase awareness of the state of the climate.
On 18 June 2015, Pope Francis issued a papal encyclical called Laudato si’ on climate change, care for the environment, and sustainable development. The encyclical, although dated 24 May 2015, was officially made public on 18 June 2015. The encyclical sets apart the basic human needs and appetites. Francis considers that the former are small and non-negotiable, and that the later are potentially unlimited. Although he asks for the use of renewable energy instead of conventional fuels, he thinks that it would not be enough unless society turns down the unlimited appetites of consumerism. This project was opposed by Vatican conservatives, Catholic conservatives, and the US evangelical movement.
As he prepared for the encyclical, Francis sponsored a Pontifical Academy of Sciences summit meeting in April 2015 that focused on the relationships connecting poverty, economic development, and climate change. The meeting included presentations and discussions by scientists, religious leaders, and economists. The United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, who is urging world leaders to approve a climate-change accord in Paris at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in December, delivered the keynote address.
At a meeting of Latin American bishops in 2007, Bergoglio said that, despite the economic growth, poverty had not been reduced in the continent, and asked for a better income distribution. On 30 September 2009, Bergoglio spoke at a conference organized by the Argentina City Postgraduate School (EPOCA) at the Alvear Palace Hotel in which he quoted the 1992 “Documento de Santo Domingo” by the Latin American Episcopal Conference, saying “extreme poverty and unjust economic structures that cause great inequalities” are violations of human rights. He went on to describe social debt as “immoral, unjust, and illegitimate”.
During a 48-hour public servant strike in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Bergoglio criticized unequal treatment of the judiciary to poor and rich people. In 2002, during an economic crisis, Bergoglio harshly criticized those in power, saying, “[l]et’s not tolerate the sad spectacle of those who no longer know how to lie and contradict themselves to hold onto their privileges, their rapaciousness, and their ill-earned wealth”. During a May 2010 Mass celebrated by twenty bishops commemorating the Argentina Bicentennial in front of the basilica of Luján, an important Catholic institution and destination of pilgrimage, Bergoglio criticized the reduced social concern over poverty and exhorted Catholics to ask the Virgin of Luján to “take care of our motherland, particularly those who are most forgotten”. In line with the Catholic Church’s efforts to care for AIDS victims, in 2001 he visited a hospice where he washed and kissed the feet of twelve AIDS patients. As Pope Francis he spoke out over the collapse of Rana Plaza garment factory in April 2013, which killed over a thousand people, and condemned the low pay workers received.
Pope Francis urged world leaders to prevent excessive monetary ambitions, which he said had become similar to an idolatry of money, and urged them to provide more welfare aid. Dealing with the Great Recession, the pope criticized unbridled capitalism, considering that it judged human beings purely by their ability to consume goods and made people miserable. He said that social inequality is caused by economic liberalism, and preferred economic systems with a higher intervention by the state. During a May 2014 meeting with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Francis called on the United Nations to encourage a better income distribution. In 2015, he declared that the poor and downtrodden of the world should have “sacred rights” of labor, lodging, and land, and denounced the austerity imposed by global financial institutions, referring to it as the “new colonialism”.
Pope Francis deplores modern slavery and, together with a diverse group of leaders from other religions, he signed a declaration promising to inspire action worldwide in an effort to eliminate slavery by 2020. Both Pope Francis and the declaration described slavery as a crime against humanity. During his new year mass in 2015 Francis pressed people from all cultures and religions to combat human trafficking and modern slavery according to their responsibilities. Francis said all human beings are brothers and sisters and all have a right to be free.
Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel consulted Francis on 18 May 2013, and later the same day called for more stringent controls of financial markets. Francis has referred many times to the Eurozone crisis that affect Greece and Roman Catholic Southern European nations. Nevertheless, Pope Francis considers that starvation and homeless people are bigger problems than the financial crises. George Haley of New Haven University said that Francis thinks that capitalism should reduce income disparity, and proposed that he used the diplomatic influence of the Vatican to suggest changes in national economies. Rohit Arora is concerned that Francis has not come up with any specific way to solve income inequality and believes if the pope is serious he should do so. Joseph Pastore believes the wealth of the Catholic Church prevents Francis from taking a polarizing position and is unsure how far Francis can reform the Church.
Pope Francis denounced the “autonomy of the marketplace” and “financial speculation” as tyranny in his 84-page apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium:
Just as the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. … A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules. To all this we can add widespread corruption and self-serving tax evasion, which has taken on worldwide dimensions. The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits.
Pope Francis’ views were called Marxist by Rush Limbaugh and other conservatives as a result of his critique of capitalism with absolute market autonomy. Pope Francis responded that “Marxist ideology is wrong. But I have met many Marxists in my life who are good people, so I don’t feel offended … there is nothing in the exhortation that cannot be found in the social doctrine of the church.” He later postulated that the Communists “stole” the flag of Christianity as “the flag of the poor is Christian. Poverty is at the center of the Gospel.”
Francis opposed the Marxist versions of liberation theology followed by the “‘progressive’ group of [Jesuit] theologians living out in base communities”. As he wrote in the preface to a book on the Catholic Church in Latin America, Una apuesta por America Latina (A Commitment to Latin America) by Guzmán Carriquiry Lecour, the proponents of liberation theology were unable to reformulate it after the collapse of Marxism, and it thus became an anachronism. His theologian of reference was Juan Carlos Scannone, a fellow Jesuit who had developed a theology centered on the “religious devotion of the common people”.
Historian Roberto Bosca at the Austral University in Buenos Aires says that Pope Francis supported liberation theology’s preferential option for the poor, although “in a nonideological fashion”. Before becoming Pope, Cardinal Bergoglio described liberation theology’s preferential option for the poor as part of a long Christian tradition rooted in the Gospels. Bergoglio’s opposition focused on the Montoneros, a terrorist group similar to the European Red Brigades that caused nearly 6,000 deaths. Montoneros claimed that they ascribed to liberation theology, and sought support from the Church. Bosca considers that Bergoglio’s opposition to the liberation theology “wasn’t opposition to liberation theology in itself or the option for the poor”, but opposition to the possible official Catholic support to the Montoneros.
Despite his caution about elements of liberation theology, Francis met with Gustavo Gutiérrez, who is usually regarded as its founder. Gutiérrez had co-authored a book with Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The Vatican’s semiofficial newspaper L’Osservatore Romano said at the time that the liberation theology should not continue to be ignored.
Pope Francis’ beatification of Archbishop of San Salvador Óscar Romero, who was assassinated in March 1980 as he said mass, as a martyr to the church is seen as Francis’ strong support for the poor and those who defend that stance.
Throughout his papacy, Pope Francis has been a vocal opponent of both the practice and legality of abortion. In May 2013, Francis unexpectedly participated in Italy’s pro-life march in Rome, asking its participants to protect human life “from the moment of conception”. Also, as the mostly Catholic country of Ireland was preparing legislation to legalize abortion, Francis sent a message to the Irish asking them to protect the lives of both the unborn and vulnerable people. Also in May 2013, during a Wednesday audience Francis officially blessed the pro-life march in Szczecin, Poland, one of Europe’s largest pro-life events and, speaking in Italian, encouraged the Poles to defend the unborn. He maintained that human life should be respected all the way from conception to natural death.
At a September 2013 meeting with Catholic gynecologists, Francis condemned abortion saying that: “Every child that isn’t born, but is unjustly condemned to be aborted, has the face of Jesus Christ, has the face of the Lord.” He advised the gynecologists to invoke the conscience clause to refuse to perform abortions, if so requested.
Francis also thought, as a Cardinal, that the church should support those women who carry on with their pregnancy despite being single parents, rejecting the option to abort. He maintained that, in those cases, priests should not refuse to baptize those children. Pope Francis baptised the baby of an unmarried couple in the Sistine Chapel during Baptism of the Lord Mass at the Vatican.
Ordination of women
Francis has often spoken about the importance of women in the Roman Catholic Church. He considers that they have a special role in spreading the faith to their children and grandchildren. He also considers that, although the first witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus were women, their significance was ignored because, for the Jewish law of the time, only males were credible witnesses.
Francis has addressed the subject of the ordination of women a number of times. Francis has ruled out the possibility of female priests, stating that this has been the longtime stance of the Church, and that “John Paul II made the Church’s stance definitive. The door is closed.”
On the other hand, Francis has been noncommittal about whether women should lead more in administration and pastoral activities, While Cardinal Timothy Dolan has suggested that female cardinals are a theoretical possibility because cardinals do not need to be ordained, Francis ruled out female cardinals in December 2013.
Erin Saiz Hanna of the Women’s Ordination Conference has accused Francis of a selective use of evidence. She mentioned that the Pontifical Biblical Commission had once concluded that there were no scriptural or theological problems with ordaining women, and cited the attitude of Jesus towards women and their leadership in the early church. She also suggested that his rejection to the ordination of women may be at odds with his tolerance of gay priests, mentioned in the same interview.
Bishop Gabriel Barba and Pope Francis
Francis has criticized the perceived hunger for power of some sectors of the curia, which come at the expense of a proper religious life. He thinks that gossip is a danger to the reputation of people, and that the presence of cliques within organizations is a threat to both the individual and the organization. Francis thinks that priests should be in contact with the people as much as possible and avoid isolation. He also suggests that priests should encourage people to be optimistic. He has been supported by Rome bishops, priests, deacons, and seminarians from the English-speaking world who attended the second international conference of the Confraternities of Catholic Clergy.
In September 2013, Pope Francis approved the excommunication of Australian priest Greg Reynolds, the first during Francis’ papacy. Reynolds was accused of heresy and sacrilegious treatment of the consecrated host. His public preaching contradicting church teaching was also referenced in the letter of excommunication. A letter sent by the Archbishop of Melbourne, Denis Hart, to the priests of his diocese cited Reynolds’ support for the ordination of women and “his public celebration of the Eucharist when he did not hold faculties to act publicly as a priest”. Reynolds said that his support of same-sex marriage was also a factor, though not mentioned.
In response to the Catholic Church sexual abuse cases, Francis created the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. In the past, priests who committed abuses were removed by bishops, but bishops were rarely held accountable. This tribunal was created to prevent cover-ups of abuse cases; offenders would be dealt with by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Barbara Blaine, president of the organization Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, considered that it may not be effective.
As a cardinal, Bergoglio’s views regarding the celibacy of priests were recorded in the book On Heaven and Earth, a record of conversations conducted with a Buenos Aires rabbi. He says that celibacy is a matter of discipline rather than faith, and that tradition and experience would advise to keep it. He noted that the Byzantine, Ukrainian, Russian, and Greek Catholic [sic] Churches allow married men to be ordained priests, but not bishops.[g] He said that many of those in Western Catholicism who are pushing for more discussion about the issue do so from a position of pragmatism, based on a loss of manpower. He states that “If, hypothetically, Western Catholicism were to review the issue of celibacy, I think it would do so for cultural reasons (as in the East), not so much as a universal option.” He emphasized that, in the meantime, the rule must be strictly adhered to, and any priest who cannot obey it should leave the ministry. The National Catholic Reporter’s Vatican analyst, Thomas J. Reese, also a Jesuit, praised Bergoglio’s use of conditional language. He said that phrases like “for the moment” and “for now” are “not the kind of qualifications one normally hears when bishops and cardinals discuss celibacy.”
The initial reports that Francis considered that the use of methods intended for contraception with the purpose of preventing disease might be permissible were disputed by others who said he was “unwaveringly orthodox on matters of sexual morality”. Before becoming Pope he opposed the free distribution of contraceptives when it was introduced by the Kirchner government. Francis emphasized that contraception involves “destruction of the family through the privation of children.” At the same time, Francis teaches that “responsible parenthood” is important, and suggested that population experts recommend three children in a family, and added that Christians do not need to breed in excess. Francis encourages natural family planning such as avoiding sexual intercourse when the woman is fertile.
As bishop and Pope, Francis restated the Church’s principle: that homosexual practice is intrinsically immoral, but that every homosexual person should be treated with respect and love. He opposes same-sex marriage, including the 2010 bill to introduce it in Argentina. In July 2010, while the law was under consideration, he wrote a letter to Argentina’s cloistered nuns in which he said the Argentine nuclear family could be seriously harmed. He thought that children would face discrimination and lose the development that a father and mother give.
Let’s not be naive: This is not a simple political fight; it is a destructive proposal to God’s plan. This is not a mere legislative proposal (that’s just its form), but a move by the father of lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God … Let’s look to St. Joseph, Mary, and the Child to ask fervently that they defend the Argentine family in this moment… May they support, defend, and accompany us in this war of God.
After L’Osservatore Romano reported this, several priests expressed their support for the law and one was defrocked. Observers believe that the church’s opposition and Bergoglio’s language worked in favor of the law’s passage and that in response, Catholic officials adopted a more conciliatory tone in later debates on social issues such as parental surrogacy.
Rubin, Bergoglio’s biographer, said that while taking a strong stand against same-sex marriage, Bergoglio raised the possibility in 2010 with his bishops in Argentina that they support the idea of civil unions as a compromise position. According to one news report by The New York Times, a majority of the bishops voted to overrule him. Miguel Woites, the director of the Catholic News Agency of Argentina, denied that Bergoglio ever made such a proposal, but additional sources, including two Argentine journalists and two senior officials of the Argentine bishops conference, supported Rubin’s account.
In an interview on 28 July 2013, when discussing homosexuals (both in general and their place in the clergy) and answering a question as to whether there was a “gay lobby” in the Vatican, the pontiff said, “If someone is gay and is searching for the Lord and has good will, then who am I to judge him? The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this in a beautiful way, saying … wait a moment, how does it say it … it says: “no one should marginalize these people for this, they must be integrated into society”.” According to two gay rights activists, Marcelo Márquez and Andrés Albertsen, Bergoglio expressed support for the spiritual needs of “homosexual people” and willingness to support “measured actions” on their behalf in private conversations with them. These remarks have been seen as an encouraging change of tone from the papacy, so much so that the American LGBT magazine The Advocate named Pope Francis their Person of the Year for 2013.
On 5 January 2014, the Vatican denied that the Pontiff supports gay unions. In response to various Italian tabloid articles released in the media, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi cited that various media misinterpretations are “paradoxical” and manipulative in misusing Pope Francis’ words noted in response to children growing up in non-traditional families. The New York Times considers that Bergoglio may have supported gay unions in Argentina only as a negotiated compromise, but that his context as a Pope is very different. In 2015, Pope Francis declared that “the family is threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage” and suggested that same-sex marriage “disfigures God’s plan for creation”. The Pontiff supported the Slovak referendum on banning gay marriage and gay adoption in an address to St. Peter’s Square, stating: “I wish to express my appreciation to the entire Slovak church, encouraging everyone to continue their efforts in defense of the family, the vital cell of society.” In October 2015, priest and Vatican theologian Priest Krzysztof Charamsa was stripped of his posts after announcing he was homosexual and denouncing the Church for “persecuting” and causing “immeasurable suffering” to homosexuals.
Francis condemned persecution of religious minorities in Iraq including some Christian victims. He did not mention the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant specifically but is believed to have referred to it. Francis mentioned children dying of hunger and thirst, kidnapped women, massacres, and violence of all kinds. In the opinion of Francis war and hatred cannot be carried out in the name of God. Francis thanked brave people bringing aid to those driven from their homes. He confidently expects an effective solution to stop those crimes and return the area to the rule of law and, in a break with Vatican tradition, supports the use of force to stop Islamic militants from attacking religious minorities in Iraq.
Capital punishment and life imprisonment
Pope Francis proposed the abolition of both capital punishment and life imprisonment in a meeting with representatives of the International Association of Penal Law. He thinks that states should find another way to protect people from aggression, and includes deaths caused by police brutality and extrajudicial punishment. He accepted that the Church accepts it when there are no other options to protect the people, but considers that nowadays such cases may be minimal or even nonexistent. He also thinks that life imprisonment, recently removed from the Vatican penal code, is just a variation of the death penalty.
Role in international diplomacy
Pope Francis played a key role in the talks toward restoring full diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba. The restoration was jointly announced by U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro on Wednesday, 17 December 2014. The headline in the Los Angeles Times on 19 December 2014 was “Bridge to Cuba via Vatican,” with the further lead “In a rare and crucial role, Pope Francis helped keep U.S. talks with Havana on track and guided final deal.” The pope was a behind the scenes broker of the agreement, taking the role following Obama’s request during his visit to the pope in March 2014. The success of the negotiations was credited to Francis because “as a religious leader with the confidence of both sides, he was able to convince the Obama and Castro administrations that the other side would live up to the deal”. When the pope visited the United States in September 2015, he stopped prior to it to Cuba. “The plan comes amid a breakthrough for which Francis has received much credit.” The Cuba visit “seals that accomplishment, in which he served as a bridge between two erstwhile enemies”. According to one expert on religion in Latin America, Mario Paredes, the pope’s visit to Cuba is consistent with his aim to promote an understanding of the role of the Cuban Revolution and that of the Catholic Church. When Francis was archbishop of Buenos Aires he authored a text entitled “Dialogues Between John Paul II and Fidel Castro.” John Paul was the first pope to visit Cuba. In May 2015, the pope met with Cuban leader Raúl Castro. After the meeting in Vatican City on 10 May 2015, Castro said that he is considering returning to the Roman Catholic Church. He said in a televised news conference, “I read all the speeches of the pope, his commentaries, and if the pope continues this way, I will go back to praying and go back to the [Roman Catholic] church. I am not joking.” Castro said that when the pope comes, “I promise to go to all his Masses and with satisfaction”.
In December 2014, Pope Francis declined to meet with the 14th Dalai Lama, the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize laureate. According to a New York Times report, a Vatican spokesman said “Pope Francis obviously holds the Dalai Lama in very high regard, but he will not be meeting any of the Nobel [Peace] laureates.” The last meeting between the Dalai Lama and a pope was with Benedict XVI in 2006. In November 2015, Pope Francis met with that year’s Nobel Peace Prize laureates from Tunisia.
In May 2014, his visit to the state of Israel was heavily publicized. However, protests against his visit resulted in fires in both the Dormition Abbey and the Church of the Nativity.
In May 2015, Pope Francis welcomed Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas to the Vatican. Several media outlets reported that Francis praised Abbas as “an angel of peace”, though his actual words were the following: “The angel of peace destroys the evil spirit of war. I thought about you: may you be an angel of peace.” The Vatican signed a treaty recognizing the state of Palestine. The Vatican issued statements concerning the hope that the peace talks could resume between Israel and Palestine. Abbas’ visit was on the occasion of the canonization of two Palestinian nuns.
On 6 June 2015, Pope Francis visited Sarajevo, the capital city of Bosnia and Herzegovina. He urged peace during his time in the religiously diverse city, known as the “Jerusalem of Europe”.
On 25 September 2015, Pope Francis addressed the United Nations in New York City.
On 16 April 2016, he visited, together with the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and the Archbishop Ieronimos II of Athens, the Mòria camp in the Greek island of Lesbos, to call the attention of the world to the refugee issue. There the three Christian leaders signed a joint declaration
Popular mainstream media frequently portray Pope Francis either as a progressive papal reformer or with liberal, moderate values. The Vatican has claimed that Western news outlets often seek to portray his message with a less-doctrinal tone of papacy, in hopes of extrapolating his words to convey a more merciful and tolerant message. In the news media, both faithful and non-believers often refer to a “honeymoon” phase in which the Pope has changed the tone on Catholic doctrines and supposedly initiated ecclesiastical reform in the Vatican.
In December 2013, both Time and The Advocate magazines named the Pontiff as their “Person of the Year” in praise and hopes of reforming the Roman Curia while hoping to change the Catholic Church’s doctrine on various controversial issues. In addition, Esquire magazine named him as the “Best-dressed man” for 2013 for his simpler vestments often in tune with a modern simplistic design on sartorial fashion. Rolling Stone magazine followed in January 2014 by making the Pontiff their featured front cover. Fortune magazine also ranked Pope Francis as number one in their list of 50 greatest leaders. On 5 November 2014, he was ranked by Forbes as the fourth most powerful person in the world and was the only non-political figure in the top ranking.
In March 2013, a new song was dedicated to Francis and released in Brazilian Portuguese, European Portuguese, and Italian, titled Come Puoi (“How You Can”). Also in March, Pablo Buera, the mayor of La Plata, Argentina, announced that the city had renamed a section of a street leading up to a local cathedral Papa Francisco. There are already efforts to name other streets after him, as well as a school where he studied as a child. A proposal to create a commemorative coin as a tribute to Pope Francis was made in Argentina’s lower house on 28 November 2013. On the coins it would read, “Tribute from the Argentine People to Pope Francis.” beneath his face. As of May 2013, sales of papal souvenirs, a sign of popularity, were up.
Pope Francis presided over his first joint public wedding ceremony in a Nuptial Mass for 20 couples from the Archdiocese of Rome on 14 September 2014, just a few weeks before the start of 5–19 October Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family.[h]
To date, there are two biographical films about Pope Francis: Call Me Francesco (Italy, 2015), starring Rodrigo de la Serna, and Francis: Pray for me (Argentina, 2015), starring Darío Grandinetti.
In 2016, while in Mexico Pope Francis made international headlines for criticizing U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Francis said of Donald Trump, “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not the gospel.” Trump responded saying “For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful.“
On March 19, 2016, Pope Francis became the first Pope to create an