The 115 voting members of the College of Cardinals moved with great alacrity to send a signal that they meant to shake up the church. With the election, in a speedy, two-day conclave, of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, archbishop of Buenos Aires, to succeed Pope Benedict XVI, they’ve done just that, at least for the sake of appearances, electing the first South American ever to grace the papal throne. In fact, he’s the first pope not to come from a European country.
But it doesn’t end there. Unlike past popes, Bergoglio hails from the Jesuit order of priests, regarded as the intellectual backbone of the church’s academic instititutions, and known as rebellious despite its members’ vow of obedience to the pope. And Bergoglio has chosen a name never before used by a pope: Francis. While we don’t yet know his reasons for choosing that name, it calls to mind the beloved Francis of Assisi, whose mission to the poor, and reverence for animals renders him an honored figure even to those outside of the Catholic faith.