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Vatican Gets First Non-European Pope in 1300 Years

On Wednesday, Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was became the first Pope in 1300 years to be elected from outside Europe. He took the name of Pope Francis, in honor of Francis of Assisi, the 12th century saint who advocated a life of piety and poverty and disregarded material wealth.

Pope Francis was elected within the second day of a closed-door meeting of cardinals, and was a surprise for most concerned. Within moments of the decision being made public, Pope Francis addressed the crowds from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica and said, “I ask a favor of you … pray for me.” He wished the assembled crowd good night before disappearing back into the Vatican.

Within hours, Pope Francis left the Vatican quietly conducting his duties as the Bishop of Rome and went to the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, the world’s oldest church dedicated to the Madonna, to pray before the Salus Populi Romani. The Basilica had only a 10-minute warning before the papal visit.

On Wednesday night, Pope Francis stated clearly that he takes all his duties seriously, including that of the Bishop of Rome. Later on Thursday, he is expected to go to the south of Rome to meet Emeritus Pope Benedict.

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Pope Francis is the 266th pontiff in the history of the Roman Catholic Church.

His election is significant, in as much as 42 percent of the world’s Catholics live in South American countries.

Bergoglio’s father was an Italian immigrant railway worker. Bergoglio became a priest at the age of 32 after losing a lung due to illness.

From 12th century to this day, Bergoglio is the first to take the name of Francis, revealing an unexplained lack of popularity among the papacy of the austere Francis of Assisi.

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