Having grown up Catholic, I was immediately taken by the choice of the new pope’s name: Francis. It honors St. Francis of Assisi, who renounced his family’s wealth and dedicated his life to the poor. As a child living in Northern Italy, I had the opportunity to visit Assisi with a church tour group from Aviano Air Force Base and learned all about this saint.
Apparently the name caught many by surprise. It’s hard to believe that there’s never been a Pope Francis, given St. Francis’ popularity among the faithful. (If you’re a Catholic with any yard statuary, it’s likely to be either Mary or St. Francis, who is often depicted feeding birds.)
I asked a Catholic friend for her thoughts on the selection of Jorge Bergogli for pope. Her response: “I think he comes with good credentials, and it doesn’t hurt that he’s a Jesuit. Let’s hope he stays healthy.”
Her reference to the new pope’s health reflects his age: 76. Many Catholics were hoping for a younger pope who might stick around longer than the last one, who was only two years older when he became pope.
Her reference to the Jesuits, I think, alludes to the fact that they are considered the church’s intelligentsia. I read in one of the news accounts that the very conservative elements of the church are concerned that because he’s a Jesuit, he may harbor some streak of liberalism. But nothing I’ve read about him indicates there’s any “danger” of that. Time will tell.
I do think taking the name of Francis might be an indication that he’s not afraid to shake things up a bit. Which would not be a bad thing.