Pope Francis
Pope Francis greets the crowd as he arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican April 17. CNS photo/Paul Haring

Ever since he stepped out onto the balcony of St. Peter’s and uttered the words “buona sera” on the evening of his March 13 election, Pope Francis has been a source of fascination and speculation for Catholics and non-Catholics alike.  

To help readers get to know the 265th successor to St. Peter and to understand the key elements of his papacy, OSV Newsweekly presents this special section. On the following pages, we will examine how his papacy serves as a continuation of those of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, how he will approach ecumenical and interfaith dialogue, what his take on the New Evangelization might be, how he will interact with young people, how his choice of name will inform his approach to Catholic social teaching and much more.  

At right are key events of the life of the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, from his childhood in Buenos Aires to his election as Supreme Pontiff.

Compiled by Matthew E. Bunson 

Dec. 17, 1936: Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in the Flores barrio of the city.

first communion
young priest
with Pope John Paul
Pope Francis
CNS, Newscom

Sept. 21, 1953: After confession, he receives an overwhelming experience of God’s loving mercy that directs him toward the religious life and the priesthood

1957: He becomes severely ill with a lung infection; after a bout of pneumonia, part of his right lung is removed.

March 11, 1958: Enters novitiate of the Society of Jesus.

March 12, 1960: Takes first vows as a member of the Society of Jesus.

1960: Studies in Chile, where he focuses on the humanities.

1961-1963: Studies philosophy at San Miguel Seminary, Buenos Aires.

1964-1965: Teaches in a high school in Santa Fe, Argentina; he teaches literature and psychology.

1966: Teaches at the Colegio del Salvador, in Buenos Aires.

1967-1970: Studies theology at San Miguel seminary, Argentina.

Dec. 13, 1969: Ordained as a priest.

1971-1973: Serves as master of novices and vice chancellor, San Miguel seminary, Argentina.

April 22, 1973: Takes final vows as a member of the Society of Jesus.

July 31, 1973: Elected provincial of the Jesuits of Argentina; he serves until 1979.

1976-1983: Argentina undergoes the so-called Dirty War that brings the deaths of as many as 35,000 people.

1979-1985: Serves as rector of Colegio Máximo and theology teacher.

1986: Studies in Germany and completes his doctorate in theology in Freiburg.

May 20, 1992: Appointed titular bishop of Auca and auxiliary bishop of Buenos Aires.

June 27, 1992: Ordained titular bishop of Auca and auxiliary bishop of Buenos Aires.

Oct. 2-29, 1994: Attends the Ninth Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, in Rome.

June 3, 1997: Appointed coadjutor archbishop of Buenos Aires.

Nov. 16-Dec. 12, 1997: Attends the Special Assembly for America of the Synod of Bishops in Rome.

Feb. 28, 1998: Becomes archbishop of Buenos Aires upon the death of Cardinal Quarracino.

Feb. 21, 2001: Named by Pope John Paul II to the College of Cardinals as a cardinal priest; he receives the title of S. Roberto Bellarmino.

Sept. 30-Oct. 27, 2001: Attends the Tenth Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in Rome

April 18-19, 2005: Attends the conclave that elects Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who chooses the name Pope Benedict XVI; it is widely reported that Cardinal Bergoglio received the second-highest number of votes.

Oct. 2-23, 2005: Attends the Eleventh General Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in Rome.

Nov. 9, 2005: Elected president of the Argentinian Bishops Conference; he is re-elected in 2008.

May 13-31, 2007: Participated in the Fifth General Conference of the Latin American Bishops Episcopate that took place in Aparecida, Brazil; he is elected president of the commission to draft the final document.

March 13, 2013: Elected pope by a conclave of 115 cardinals and takes the name Francis.

March 19, 2013: Inauguration Mass is held for the official start of his pontificate.