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New pope a compromise candidate?

Updated: April 15, 2013 11:32AM



The first-ever pope from the Americas may have been a compromise candidate in the end given the age of Jorge Bergoglio, Chicago scholars said Wednesday.

They don’t exactly expect the 76-year-old archbishop of Buenos Aires, now known as Pope Francis, to lead a decades-long papacy.

“I think that his age means that maybe this is again an instance where the church is kind of marking time,” said Michael Budde, chairman of the department of Catholic Studies at DePaul University. “Trying to buy some time, maybe.”

Susan Ross, chairwoman of the theology department at Loyola University Chicago, said his selection is still a recognition, though, of the growing church in the global south. Latin America accounts for about 40 percent of the world’s Roman Catholics.

“This is both indications that this guy probably isn’t going to be around for 25 years,” Ross said, “but on the other hand he’s the first pope from the new world.”

The experts pointed out the new pope speaks Italian and was trained in Europe. Budde said that might have helped him come across as a potential pontiff Italian church leaders could understand.

“He’s no different in that sense than all the other cardinals,” Ross said.

They also noted Bergoglio’s reputation as a humble man who worked closely with the poor, rode the bus to work and cooked his own meals. They said the name he’s chosen — an assumed reference to St. Francis of Assisi — strikes a note of simplicity given St. Francis’ devotion to the poor and vows of poverty.

But Patrick Callahan, a professor of political science at DePaul, noted St. Francis was called by Jesus to rid the church of corruption in the middle ages. Since St. Francis is so revered in the church, he said, past popes might have thought taking the name was too presumptuous.

Callahan acknowledged it’s a bold choice by Bergoglio, who might have been trying to send a message.

“It’s my hunch that the majority of the cardinals believe it’s imperative to fix up the mess in Rome, and that they chose him over others,” Callahan said of the new pope.

Contributing: Associated Press



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