Pope Francis I

So Habemas Papam and all that.

Everything I know about Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, now Pope Francis I, is decidedly second- or third-hand: he’s an Argentinian of Italian ethnic background (which must have been useful to his ambitions), considered “unwaveringly orthodox” on the hot-button sexual issues (though he has also been conspicuously charitable towards AIDS sufferers), and although personally abstemious and sympathetic to the social needs of the poor, has also been a conservative influence on his own Society of Jesus, which he now represents as their first Pope. He’s the first non-European Pope in about twelve centuries, and the first Pope ever from a place that was not at some point part of the Roman Empire. He’s also 76 years old, and reportedly finished a fairly strong second in the conclave that elected Benedict XVI.

You can read John Allen’s profile of him from the National Catholic Register for more details, or follow all the back-and-forth on Twitter, the Tube, and the blogosphere. My own Twitter prediction just before the announcement was that the 1% of features that distinguished the winner from other prelates would get 99 times more attention than the 99% that did not. We’ll see if I’m right.

But the initial reaction doesn’t seem all that earth-shaking (though it may well be so in South America, and among Jesuits or Jesuit-haters; the blog at the liberal American Jesuit magazine America might be a good place to watch for an interesting reaction). I doubt we’ll hear anything like punk rocker Patti Smith’s statement to an audience just after the election of the short-lived John Paul I: “We have a new Pope, and he’s okay.”

Washington Monthly - Donate today and your gift will be doubled!

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.