Catholics worldwide rejoiced on Wednesday when Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, was selected as the 266th pope.
In many ways, it was a historic choice by the 115 cardinals who elected him. And the 76-year-old Argentine made history himself by choosing to take the papal name of Francis.
In other ways, Bergoglio’s selection was a traditional one, at least when it comes to his theological views and positions on a host of social issues.
Here are five things to know about the Catholic Church’s new leader:
1. He is the first Jesuit pope and the first pope from Latin America.
The Jesuits were founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola in 1534 as an order of priests and brothers who took a vow of poverty, chastity and obedience. Pope Paul III approved the order, but there has never been a Jesuit pope until now. Nor has there been a Latin American pope – although, as the son of Italian immigrants, Francis isn’t too far removed from the Church’s European base.
2. His chosen papal name honors St. Francis of Assisi.
While his predecessor was the 16th pope to use the name Benedict, he is the first Pope Francis – a choice that honors St. Francis of Assisi, a legendary figure in Christian history, who, like the new pope, was a lifelong advocate for the poor. Still, the name choice stunned some observers who see St. Francis as one of a kind. One Vatican expert told CNN that the choice was “precedent shattering … There are cornerstone figures in Catholicism [that seem] irrepeatable.”
3. He is known as a humble man who has lived simply.
In Buenos Aires, Cardinal Bergoglio lived in a simple apartment downtown rather than a palatial church property and he was known for taking the bus with other commuters and cooking his own meals at home. That humility was seen Wednesday when he asked for the people’s blessing from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica. Catholics believe his demeanor signals true empathy for the world’s poor and downtrodden.
4. He is a theological and social conservative.
Those looking for a more progressive papacy from Francis are not likely to get it, says NBC. He opposes abortion, the ordination of women, gay marriage, and has said gays and lesbians should not be allowed to adopt. He is thought to be more open-minded about contraception, believing it can be permissible to prevent the spread of disease.
5. He is viewed with guarded optimism by Catholics discouraged over the Church’s recent scandals.
Catholics tell The Guardian they hope Francis can steer the Church in the right direction following its widespread priest sex-abuse scandals and claims of corruption in the Vatican. In Francis, they see a leader who can bring moral clarity, structure and accountability to the Church, at a time when it’s needed most.