What we need to know about Pope Francis
DIRECT FROM THE MIDDLE EAST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez (The Freeman) - January 9, 2015 - 12:00am

The whole Christendom needs to know the first non-European Pope after many centuries. What matters most to a believer is faith in what he stands for and faith in people that exemplifies what he believes in. To millions of believers in the Philippines, the historic visit of Pope Francis, the 266th successor to the seat of Saint Peter, as Supreme Pontiff of the largest religious group in the world. It is important that we know him better so that we can understand him more and his teachings. And understanding, we can easily appreciate his decisions and actions. The Church can also better promote faithfulness to its dogma and doctrines when its leader is known, understood, and appreciated by the people who compose it.

Thus, we are writing a series of columns about Pope Francis, based on our researches and interviews of Church leaders and religious men and women. His complete official title is: His Holiness, Francis, Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of the Vatican City State, Servant of the Servants of God. But Pope Francis just wants to be called Papa Francesco, a name he chose in honor of St Francis of Assisi, patron saint of the poor, whose feast on October 4 is celebrated in Dumanjug, Cebu.

Born in Argentina  as Jorge Mario Bergoglio on December 17, 1926, to immigrants  from Italy, he was ordained priest in 1959, joined the Jesuits and became its Provincial Superior in 1973. He was appointed Archbishop of Argentina in 1978. He was made a Cardinal by Pope John Paul II on February 21, 2001. He got the second highest number of votes in the 2005 consistory when Pope Benedict XVI was elected. When the latter resigned, Pope Francis was chosen as his successor in February 2013, after five balloting on the second day of the consistory. Today, he treats Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI with great affection and concern.

His Holiness, Francis, is a pope of many firsts: He is the first Jesuit Pope, the very first from the Americas, the first from the southern hemisphere, the first non-European pope, in 1,272 years, since Pope Gregory III, a Syrian who was elected in 741 A.D. Perhaps, he is also the first duly elected Pope who opted not to reside in papal apartments in the Vatican. He chose to live in Domus Sanctae Marthae guest house, thereby emphasizing that he is just a passing pilgrim who would not be staying forever in the throne of Peter. He is noted for his humility, when he was announced as the new Supreme Pontiff, he asked for prayers because he said he is a sinner.

One thing that distinguishes Pope Francis is his simplicity. He used to take public transport, like trains and buses when he was the Archbishop of Argentina. He lived in simple houses instead of residing in the archbishop's palace. He used to travel economy class whenever he went to Rome and back. He opts for simpler vestments and does not like too many ceremonies. Above all, he is pro-poor, pro-people, and chooses inclusion rather than exclusion. When asked about the LGBT, he responded: Who am I to judge them? And yet, he reaffirms the dogmas and doctrines of the Church.

Pope Francis' visit to our country (we hope he will include Cebu in his itinerary), will definitely bring a lot of hopes to our people who stand "wounded and scarred" from too many calamities, crimes, corruptions, and controversies. We need this ray of hope. A new hope for MERCY and COMPASSION amidst too much pains and hatred.

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