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Five questions about the new pope

March 13, 2013|By Marc Duvoisin

Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the first non-European pope in more than a millennium and the first from South America, was a surprise choice to lead the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics.  Few Vatican watchers had the Argentine cleric near the top of their lists of potential successors to Benedict XVI.

Here are five questions about the new pontiff. The answers, as they emerge, will provide a clearer understanding of where Pope Francis will take the church.

1) The new pope is a Jesuit, an order known for its scholarship, intellectual rigor and progressive tradition. How will the Jesuit heritage influence Francis’ teaching and policies?

2) The new pope is 76.  When Benedict, 85, announced his retirement, he said he could no longer handle the physical demands of the job. Yet Francis is just two years younger than Benedict was when he assumed the papacy in 2005. Will Francis be up to the job physically and, if so, for how long?

3) How will Francis address the legacy of clergy sexual abuse that has roiled the church in the United States, Ireland and England? Benedict has been faulted for not acting decisively enough to defrock abusive priests and reach out to their victims. The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, issued a guarded, but not entirely critical, statement about the choice of Bergoglio.

4) Francis represents a geographic departure for the papacy. But in terms of doctrine and teaching, does he stand for the status quo? He is regarded as a conservative, and he finished second in all four rounds of balloting during the 2005 conclave that ended with the election of Benedict.

5) Vatican watchers believe a key point of debate among the cardinals was whether to elect a charismatic figure to spread the Christian gospel or a managerial figure capable of cleaning up the Vatican bureaucracy. Which of these roles, if either, will Francis end up playing?


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