March 14, 2013

Francis, a pope of many firsts, faces old challenges

The Associated Press

(Continued from page 2)

Today's poll: Pope Francis

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Pope Francis waves to the crowd from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican on Wednesday. Bergoglio, who chose the name of Francis, is the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church.

AP

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Visitors take photos of Pope Francis as he speaks from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, who chose the name of Francis is the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

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"Bergoglio has been very critical of human rights violations during the dictatorship, but he has always also criticized the leftist guerrillas; he doesn't forget that side," Rubin said.

Bergoglio's own role in the so-called Dirty War has been the subject of controversy.

At least two court cases directly involved Bergoglio. One examined the torture of two of his Jesuit priests who were kidnapped in 1976 from the slums where they advocated liberation theology. One accused Bergoglio of effectively handing him over to the junta.

Both men were freed after Bergoglio took extraordinary, behind-the-scenes action to save them — including persuading dictator Jorge Videla's family priest to call in sick so that Bergoglio himself could say Mass in the junta leader's home, where he privately appealed for mercy. His intervention likely saved their lives, but Bergoglio never shared the details until Rubin interviewed him for a 2010 biography.

Rubin said failing to challenge the dictators was simply pragmatic at a time when so many people were getting killed, and attributed Bergoglio's later reluctance to share his side of the story as a reflection of his humility.

Francis will celebrate his first Mass as pope in the Sistine Chapel on Thursday, and will be installed officially on Tuesday, according to the Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi.

One of his first foreign trips is expected to be World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro in July, an event that will likely energize the continent given their native son will be presiding.

Lombardi, also a Jesuit, said he was particularly stunned by the election given that Jesuits typically shun positions of authority in the church, instead offering their work in service to those in power.

But Lombardi said that in accepting the election, Francis must have felt it "a strong call to service," an antidote to all those who speculated that the papacy was about a search for power.

New York Cardinal Dolan gave an inside glimpse into the drama of the conclave, saying that when the tally reached the necessary 77 votes to make Bergoglio pope, the cardinals erupted in applause. And when he accepted the momentous responsibility thrust upon him, "there wasn't a dry eye in the place," the American cardinal recounted.

After the princes of the church had congratulated the new pope one by one, other Vatican officials wanted to do the same, but Francis preferred to go outside and greet the throngs of faithful. "Maybe we should go to the balcony first," Dolan recalled the pope as saying.

Later, the new pope shunned a special car and security detail provided to transport him to the Vatican hotel. He decided to stay with the cardinals.

"'I'll just go with the guys on the bus,'" Dolan quoted him as saying.

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Additional Photos

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Faithful wait for smoke to rise from a chimney on top of the Sistine Chapel during the second day of voting for the election of a new pope at the Vatican.

REUTERS

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White smoke emerges from the chimney on the roof of the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican on Wednesday.

AP

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Crowds cheer after white smoke billowed from the chimney on the Sistine Chapel indicating that a new pope has been elected in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on Wednesday.

AP

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Pope Francis speaks from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio who chose the name of Francis, is the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

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Cardinals watch as Pope Francis speaks to the crowd from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, who chose the name of Francis, is the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

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Pope Francis waves to the crowd from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican in a photograph released by Osservatore Romano at the Vatican, March 13, 2013. (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

Reuters



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Today's poll: Pope Francis

Do you think Pope Francis I is a good choice to lead the Catholic Church?

Yes

No

View Results