The new hand of God

Newly elected Pope Francis I greets the crowd in Rome Photograph: Osservatore Romano/Reuters

After a surprisingly short conclave, the cardinals elected Jorge Mario Bergoglio from Argentina to be the next Pope, bishop of Rome and leader of catholics across the world. He inherits a mountains of problems for his church, but will the 76 year old will have the strength and more importantly will, to alter his church for the better.

As his Papal name, he chose Francis, after the saint Francis of Assisi. He is the 266th man to take the position as Pope and the first to be from Latin America.

Most likely the nationality of the new Pope will be the most radical change of course the Pope will bring to the church, as he has a long career as a social conservative man.

The act of naming himself after one of the most famous saints in the catholic world, Francis of Assisi, who dedicated his life to live and preach among the poor, might send a signal. Like the original Francis, Bergoglio might make poverty his area of interest. As the top Jesuit in Argentina during the years of the brutal military dictatorship, his role has been questioned several times and serious allegations has been brought forward. Bergoglio is known to have worked against “liberation theology” and critiques says he very “cosy with the dictatorship”.

His supporters hail him as a friend of the poor, frequently traveling around Buenos Aires on public buses and refusing the luxuries bestowed on him as Bishop of the city. He has spoken out on behalf of children of single mothers, commonly rejected by the church and denied baptism.

Under the reign of the two past Popes, the Catholic Church has received a steady stream of criticism for its medieval views on several issues and handling of serious crisis. A list of alligations of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and other clergy, and subsequent cover-ups by the Vatican has dealt unrepairable damage to the Catholic Church.

The election of Bergoglio might also upset som Falklanders and Britons because of claims made the Cardinal that the Falklands Islands was “usurped” into Britain. It will be interesting to see if the new Pope has another view on the issue.

On a satiric side note there is worth mentioning that Pope Francis I takes over the role the “hand of God” title from fellow countryman and footballer Diego Maradona. It was during the 1986 Football World Cup in Mexico, in a quarter final match between Argentina and England, that Maradona scored his famous “hand of God” goal by using his hand. Just a few minutes later he went on to score his second goal, voted goal of the century by FIFA.com users in 2002, dribbling through five England players and their keeper. Can the new Pope’s skills for political and theological maneuvering match Maradona’s finesse on the pitch?

Diego Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’ goal at the Football World Cup 1986 Argentina v England, Mexico
Photograph: Offside Sports Photography / L’Equipe

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