Lesser-known and interesting facts about Pope Francis:
The People’s Pope, Pope Francis is the presiding Bishop of Rome and the leader of the Roman Catholic Church. He is renowned for his emancipatory and uplifting policies for the poor and has been a vocal critic of the widening economic instability and the ecological crisis that plagues the world.
Born on December 17, 1936, as Jorge Mario Bergoglio in Buenos Aires in Argentina, he hailed from an Italian immigrant family and became the first member of the Society of Jesus to be named leader of the Roman Catholic Church.
Bergoglio felt tethered to religion from a young age. Before becoming a part of the Church around the age of 21, he worked as a chemical technician, bar bouncer and factory worker. After enduring a life-threatening illness that caused serious damage to his physical health, Bergoglio joined the first stage of the Jesuit formation and devoted himself fully to religion.
While in the Jesuit Novitiate, he also took to academics; he was drawn towards humanities and completed his higher education in the field of Philosophy. After graduating, Bergoglio enrolled to obtain another degree in Theology and simultaneously began to teach literature and Psychology in a high school.
Bergoglio was appointed a priest in the Society of Jesus in 1969, took his final vows in the Jesuit order in 1973, and subsequently served as head of the Jesuit province of Argentina. He maintained his position in the order until 1979. Thereafter, he was named the Auxiliary Bishop of Buenos Aires in 1992 and the Archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1998, a position he wielded until he became the Pope in 2013.
While Bergoglio’s outlook towards the poor and the less unfortunate had always been kind and humble, his life was also marred with several controversies. He is critiqued by many for his presumed far-right conservative ideals. His involvement was greatly speculated in the disappearance of two Jesuit priests during the military coup in Argentina. He has also been an ardent critic of same-sex marriages, abortion and contraception for the majority of his years as a religious preacher.
However, his extensive influence and impact, especially among the poor, propelled him to the papacy in 2013, after Pope Benedict XVI resigned due to old age and health problems. Bergoglio was thus elected on the fifth ballot by the Conclave and chose the name Francis, in honour of St. Francis of Assisi.
Pope Francis has spent his years as the sovereign of Vatican City denouncing the ill-treatment of the impoverished and professing ideals of peace, justice and communion amongst the world. He has also made efforts to ascertain interfaith peace between several religions of the world and has played a substantial role in reforming the Catholic Church to be more tolerant and inclusive.
Here are 8 facts you might not know about Pope Francis:
- As a teenager, he suffered from Pneumonia. However, due to the lack of proper medical care, the infection in his lungs became so severe that the Pope underwent surgery to remove a part of his lungs.
- Pope Francis is not only the first Jesuit pope, he is also the first Latin American pope and the first from the Western Hemisphere. Astonishingly, he is the first non-European to become the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in more than 1,000 years.
- Pope Francis has taken several crucial steps to reform the Church amidst growing criticism of its pertinence in today’s world. He appointed an international council of eight cardinals to assist him in reforming the Catholic Church.
- The first of his names, the Pope chose the name Francis in honour of St. Francis of Assisi, a Catholic friar born in 12th century Italy, who was known as the patron saint of ecology and animals and also as a servant of the poor.
- Pope Francis’ first shot at papacy came in 2005 when he was one of the prominent nominees for the position. When Pope Benedict XVI won the election in 2005, Pope Francis was a runner-up by a slight margin.
- In November 2013 he issued Evangelii Gaudium or “The Joy of the Gospel”, an apostolic sermon in which he condemned economic inequality and called upon the Church to embrace its global diversity by adopting more tolerance and inclusivity.
- The papal leader is proficient multilingual, showing great fluency in Spanish, Italian and Latin, as well as functional skills in English, German, Ukrainian, French and Portuguese.
- Pope Francis, as a man of humility, denounced the affluent lifestyles of previous papal leaders in solidarity with the poor. He lives in a humble two-bedroom apartment and is known to cook his own meals. He also pays for his hotel bills and is averse to the use of bulletproof cars.