In time for Easter: A Pope of Firsts

Maria D’Antonio

The imminent arrival of Easter signals Pope Francis’ first anniversary in papal office. This will be his second Easter as Bishop of Rome, and we will take a small peak at his past and where he and the church are headed.

Brief Biography

According the Vatican’s website, Pope Francis is the first pope from the Americas. Jorge Bergoglio, Pope Francis’ birth name, comes from Argentina. His history can be described as steadily rising in clerical hierarchy while remaining dutiful to the poor. For instance, when he was ordained as a cardinal he asked his parishioners not to come, but rather donate what they would have spent on travel expenses to the poor.

Although the Vatican’s website fully details his ordination history, this is a brief account outlining his rise to papacy. He was ordained as a priest in 1969, and later was appointed by Pope John Paul II as Bishop of Auca and Auxiliary of Buenos Aires. He succeeded the Archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1998 and in 2001 became cardinal. He became pope in March 2013.

A Pope of Firsts

As already stated, Pope Francis is the first pope from the Americas. He is also the first pope to don the name Francis, after St. Francis of Assisi, who the pope explained is “the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and protects creation,” in a Catholic Telegraph article. He is also the first Jesuit Pope.

Nvate Pope Francis Easter

Pope Francis is the first pope to have a selfie.
Credit: businessinsider.com

Pope Francis elected to live in a suite in the Vatican guesthouse, rather than the papal apartments where the other popes previously lived. The pope felt that his living situation during the conclave, the session where the cardinals elect the next pope, was simpler and allowed a greater sense of community, according to another Catholic Telegraph article.

He was also the first pope to have a selfie. According to NBC News, the first papal selfie occurred on August 2013 with a group of teenaged pilgrims.

Shifting Images

Pope Francis is certainly not the first pope represented favorably in the media, but the current pope is definitely changing the image of Catholicism. When he first entered papacy in March 2013, his predecessor, Benedict XVI, had resigned. Although Benedict XVI was not the first pope to resign, the usual scenario for a newly elected pope is that he will remain in office until his death. However, Benedict XVI’s resignation and the decision to keep his papal name had left the image of the church rather sour, according to an article on Religious News Service.

Pope Francis had a huge task before him. Not only did he have to change the church’s image due to Benedict XVI’s resignation, but the church was, and is still, dealing with sex abuse scandals. The new pope did the impossible and altered the perception of the church.

In an article on U.S. News, the church was described as “slumping toward obsolete extinction,” but that “Francis has brought a breath of fresh air” to the church. The article credits Pope Francis’ natural ability to connect with people.

U.S. News also cited a Pew Research Poll that states that over half of Americans surveyed, and greater among Catholic Americans, favor the pope, while only 4 percent of American Catholics dislike him.

Pope Francis is also different from other popes in that he took some steps to assure the world that he means what he says. When he spoke about the poor, he was also refusing a personal limousine and a personal cook. He is the pope who took a selfie with young pilgrims to the Vatican. His actions dictate what kind of pope he is, rather than his words, though he does have some words to share as well.

Keep in mind, Pope Francis is not the first pope to make changes to the church and the image of the church; instances like the Second Vatican Council come to mind. Pope Francis has entered his papacy during a dark time for the Catholic Church, and he is doing his duty to the church by living out his faith and being a light for the world.

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