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Pope Francis: A New Beginning

March 13th, 2013, the 266th Pope in the Roman Catholic Church emerged from the balcony of St. Peter`s basilica to a crowd of people cheering below.

WGN’s  Dina Bair was in Rome for the announcement and shares in detail the journey of a humble cardinal from Argentina to the highest position in the church of 1.2 billion Catholics and a closer look at Francis’ path to the papacy.

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Pope Benedict resigns and a frenzy begins

A shocking announcement, for the first time in 600 years, the sitting pope, Benedict the 16th said he was stepping down.

But church leaders were in a bit of a frenzy, there was hardly a precedent for electing a new pontiff, when the other was still alive.

This time no grieving, just struggling to come up with a plan. Church law said cardinals must wait 15 days for a conclave to elect a new holy father. In his final act, Pope Benedict altered church law to allow for an earlier conclave. But as the cardinals gathered in Vatican City, they weren`t ready.

Like a river flooding St. Peter`s Square, they came by the thousands, soon hundreds of thousands.

Many had fled from mother nature`s assault on the area, in the day`s leading up to the conclave.

But the smoke was a calling back, a sign. After only a day and a half, a conclave so speedy most were surprised at the smoke. Many had all but given up on this night.

And as the white billowed across the sky it carried the clouds away. For those in the crowd calling out for people to put down their umbrellas, soon there was no need for the cover. As a new pope was elected the driving rains went away. Clear sky. One twinkling star. All that was left were tears of joy.


Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?

If at first he seemed a stranger, in a matter of minutes Jorge Mario Bergoglio became more like an old friend.



Born and raised in a middle-class suburb of Buenos Aires, Jorge Mario grew up with four siblings. His parents, Mario, a railway worker, and Regina Maria, a housewife, were of Italian descent. He began his career as a chemist, but soon switched course to the seminary. An intellectual, he taught literature, philosophy and theological studies in Argentina. He furthered his own studies in Germany. He wasn`t ordained a priest until age 33. Then Pope John Paul II named him assistant bishop in Buenos Aires. Five years later, archbishop with his elevation to cardinal in 2001.

But as he rose to the top, his lifestyle remained firmly grounded. Instead of living in the bishop’s luxury residence, he chose a simple apartment, where he cooked his own meals and navigated the city using public transportation.



His statements on moral and social issues have been clear. A conservative. He opposes gay marriage, abortion, same sex adoption and birth control. An unwavering advocate for social justice, he’s devoted much of his life to the impoverished, shining a constant light on those less fortunate.


Bergoglio’s story includes a dark chapter in Argentina’s history. Up to 30,000 people perished in the violence and power struggle. Bergoglio was then the highest ranking Jesuit. Under his watch, two priests working with the poor in the slums of Buenos Aires  activity deemed suspicious by the dictatorship, asked Bergoglio for protection. They were ultimately rounded up, tortured, shackled and held for five months. After their release, they questioned Bergoglio’s actions or inactions. How much or how little Bergoglio did to stand up to the dictatorship remains unclear.  But according to his biographer, Sergio Rubin, Bergoglio said he did work behind the scenes for the priests release, and helped shelter others in danger during the dictatorship.



Bergoglio emerged as an ambassador of sorts, reaching out to other religions. Just days into his papacy, he mingled with a diverse group of religious leaders, pledging friendship and respect among men and women of different faiths.


Pope Francis: A Man of the People

In his first journey through St. Peter`s Square, Pope Francis stopped for a sick man. An image harkening to biblical stories of Christ embracing the poor and ill, the Holy Father kissed the head of a disabled man, laying his hands on the man`s chest offering a blessing. He held babies and the people held him up as the man who would make a difference.

The climate has changed for the Vatican with this new pontiff and his independent style. From the night he was elected, he hopped on a bus with his fellow cardinals, rejecting the private luxury car reserved for the pope. And the next morning, without a security detail or a limo, he jumped in a VW and went out among the people to pray. At Santa Maria Maggiore, priests were shocked to learn the pope was on his way.

And the big question for people of all parishes, will this humble man of the people be able to move the church away from the scandals. .

Most memorable moments from the pope’s election