A Jesuit, an Argentine and a Pope walk into a bar ... and they were the same person.
Not much of a joke, is it?
I've been thinking about this move all day, the move of Catholic Church to elect Francis I, the first Jesuit pope and the first pope from Latin America. If you missed the announcement, watch it here [Cardinal Bergoglio announced as new Pope].
Here are three reasons why I think this move is significant ...
First, Pope Francis is the first-ever Jesuit pope. The Jesuit order is deeply committed to education and care for the poor. Their priests take special vows of obedience to the pope, but often their commitments lead them to buck the leadership in the Vatican. I'm very interested to see what happens if Pope Francis keeps to his commitments to education and care for the poor and if the Jesuit order really throws their support behind him.
Could the Catholic Church increase her efforts to care for the world's poor?
Secondly, Pope Francis is the first-ever pope from Latin America. For years, people have noted that the global church is growing most rapidly in the often-disenfranchised Global South. This is especially true for the Catholic Church, which is spreading like wildfire in Africa and thriving in Latin America. Something powerful happens when disenfranchised people gain a voice, a seat at the table where decisions happen.
Will Pope Francis remember his people and maintain connected to the Global South?
Lastly, Pope Francis is Argentine. A large portion of Argentina's population can trace their roots to Italy, as wave after wave of immigrants flooded Argentine cattle country after the wars rocked Europe. As an Argentine with Italian heritage, Pope Francis can serve as a bridge between the church's heritage and the church's future. For generations, pope after pope came from Italy. Italy was the center of the Christian world. As that center shifts, it seems like it would be very helpful to have someone with dual citizenship, someone who connects with both the heritage and the future, someone like Pope Francis. This may open doors for more leaders to arise from the Global South.
Will Pope Francis' dual identity create opportunities for more leaders to arise from the Global South?