Writers sketch a portrait of our new Pope Francis

What an exciting time to be a Catholic! 

From the moment bells rang out in St. Peter’s Square on the evening of March 13, something other than white smoke has been in the air. With our new Argentine Pope Francis, a vibrant energy has infused the Church. A kind of “What is he going to do next?” buzz is hovering on the lips of anyone who’s paying attention to the new leader of the Church. After all the hype surrounding the conclave and the election of a new successor of Peter — hype compounded by 6,000 journalists and rife social media use — Jorge Mario Bergoglio has not disappointed in giving us much on which to reflect.  

His main message, so far, is one of humility, mercy and love for the people of God, especially the weakest among us. In his first official homily as pope, given March 19 during his inauguration Mass in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis challenged each of us to follow St. Joseph’s example and be protectors of God’s gifts — of the Church, God’s creation, the poor and marginalized, families and friendships. 

“Caring, protecting, demands goodness … tenderness,” the pope said. “In the Gospels, St. Joseph appears as a strong and courageous man, a working man, yet in his heart we see great tenderness, which is not the virtue of the weak, but rather a sign of strength of spirit and a capacity for concern, for compassion, for genuine openness to others, for love. We must not be afraid of goodness, of tenderness.” 

But who exactly is our new pope, where did he come from and what will be his impact? 

In this week’s In Focus (Pages 9-12), Matthew Bunson examines Pope Francis from his childhood on, painting a portrait of the man who, at 76, would be elected by the College of Cardinals to lead the Church deeper into the 21st century. Bunson gives detailed background information on Bergoglio’s life in Argentina, his affinity for being called “Father Jorge,” and his devotion to being among his people.  

Greg Erlandson, OSV president and publisher, and Msgr. Owen F. Campion, OSV associate publisher, interview U.S. Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien, grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, about his experience inside the conclave (Page 12). 

Writing from Rome, Austen Ivereigh weighs in on how Pope Francis’ direct style — and its potential to clash with the traditions of the Vatican stemming from the time of Pope Benedict XVI — “is the stuff of film scripts” (Page 4). Also in the Eternal City, Gerard O’Connell examines Pope Francis as the “pope of the poor” (Page 8).  

We hope these varied perspectives help you build a clearer understanding of our pontiff. 

Finally, in case you’re looking for them, the many conversion stories submitted for our Easter issue will run May 19, the feast of Pentecost, as Pope Francis’ election took precedence this week. All of us here at OSV Newsweekly wish you a very blessed Easter season!

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