VATICAN CITY (CBSNewYork/AP) — He was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, is the son of Italian immigrants and on Wednesday, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio became the leader of world’s estimated 1.2 billion Catholics.
Bergoglio, now known as Pope Francis, was elected pope after receiving a two-thirds majority from the 115 cardinals on the fifth ballot vote during the second day of the papal conclave.
“Let’s begin this long road from the Bishop of Rome to the people. Let us all behave with love and charity. Let us pray always not just for ourselves, but for others, for everyone in the word,” Bergoglio said to the massive crowd gathered in St. Peters Square.
EXTRA: Pope Francis Speech Text
The new pope is known as a humble man who denied himself the luxuries that previous Buenos Aires cardinals enjoyed. He will also have a special connection to the almost half-billion Catholics who live in Latin America.
“There was a real human touch there, and I think he’s really going to connect with people,” said the Rev. Andrew Small, OMI, of Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States.
As CBS 2’s Jessica Schneider reported, Small visited the then-cardinal at his Buenos Aires residence several years ago, and was astonished at how the now-pontiff welcomed him.
“There’s no one else in the house. He’s answering his own door. They didn’t show us into a nice little lounge, where you wait until the grand man comes in,” Small said. “He was just incredibly down to earth.”
Bergoglio’s demeanor came from his humble upbringing.
Bergoglio is one of five children and as a child suffered a respiratory illness that left him with just one lung. Bergoglio is known in his native city’s archdiocese for his simplicity, CBS 2’s Schneider reported.
Prior to his election, Bergoglio didn’t live in the archbishop palace, but rather in an apartment, where he cooked his own meals. His vestments are also simple. Case in point, on Wednesday he came out in a white cassock instead of the red cape and papal stoll.
He even chose to wear his own, simple cross — devoid of diamond and jewels — as he stood on the balcony taking in the incredible scene below.
“He’s lived those 76 turbulent years on little buses and bikes and convents, in dusty lanes all across Latin America,” Small said. “I think he’s going to transform the papacy in a real way.”
Bergoglio often rode the bus to work and regularly visited the slums that ring Argentina’s capital. He considers social outreach, rather than doctrinal battles, to be the essential business of the Church.
“His way shows very much that he wants to approach people, listen to people, ask their blessing,” said the Rev. Luke Sweeney of the New York Archdiocese.
The new pope reportedly got the second most votes after Joseph Ratzinger in the 2005 papal election to replace Pope John Paul II.
Pope Francis isn’t just a departure in terms of geography, but also in ideology. He is the first pope from the Jesuit order. He was ordained as a Jesuit priest in 1969 and was made a cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 2001.
CBS News papal consultant Monsignor Anthony Figueiredo said Bergoglio “did not want to be pope.”
“This man did not expect to be pope,” Figueiredo said, adding that Bergoglio’s selection is an “incredibly courageous choice.”
CBS News reported that Bergoglio is not a favorite of the Vatican curia.
“This man now has a clear mandate from 115 cardinals to come in and clear out the curia,” Monsignor Figueiredo said.
The new pope once accused fellow church leaders of hypocrisy and forgetting that Jesus Christ bathed lepers and ate with prostitutes.
“Jesus teaches us another way: Go out. Go out and share your testimony. Go out and interact with your brothers. Go out and share. Go out and ask. Become the Word in body as well as spirit,” Bergoglio told Argentina’s priests last year.
Bergoglio’s legacy as cardinal includes his efforts to repair the reputation of a church that lost many followers by failing to openly challenge Argentina’s murderous 1976-83 dictatorship.
He also worked to recover the church’s traditional political influence in society, but his outspoken criticism of President Cristina Kirchner couldn’t stop her from imposing socially liberal measures that are anathema to the Church, from gay marriage and adoption to free contraceptives for all.
Elected on the fifth ballot, Francis was chosen in one of the fastest conclaves in years, remarkable given there was no clear front-runner going into the vote and that the Church had been in turmoil following the upheaval unleashed by Pope Benedict XVI’s surprise resignation.
By comparison, Benedict was elected on the fourth ballot in 2005, but he was also the clear front-runner going into the vote. Pope John Paul II was elected on the eighth ballot in 1978 to become the first non-Italian pope in 455 years.
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