Pope Francis

266th Pope of the Catholic Church

Biography

Pope Francis greets people at a General Audience.

Jorge Mario Bergoglio was born in Buenos Aires on December 17, 1936. He earned a chemical technician's diploma from his high school and entered the Jesuit novitiate in March 1958. As part of his Jesuit formation, he taught literature and psychology at Jesuit high schools in the mid-1960s, and he was ordained to the priesthood on December 13, 1969.

In 1973, he was appointed superior of the Jesuit province of Argentina. In 1992, Pope John Paul II named him an auxiliary bishop of Buenos Aires. He was promoted to coadjutor archbishop in 1997 and became head of the archdiocese in 1998; St. John Paul named him to the College of Cardinals three years later. 

On March 13, 2013, he became the first Pope of the Americas after being elected at the age of 76 and took the name of Francis. When adopting his papal coat of arms, he chose to retain his personal motto that he used since his episcopal consecration in 1991: Miserando atque eligendo. The motto comes from the 21st homily of Saint Bede, and is in reference to the vocation of Saint Matthew. The full biography of Pope Francis is available here

pop francis biography

Ring and Pallium

Pope-Francis-receives-ring-during-inaugural-Mass-cns-paul-haring-montage

The pallium is a sign of office in the Latin Church worn by the Pope and by metropolitan archbishops. It is a white woolen band formed into a circle that lies over the shoulders, with bands extending down the front and the back. There are several crosses embroidered on it, and it is tipped in black silk. 

Pope Benedict XVI’s pallium was distinct from that of metropolitan archbishops: the crosses were the color red. He used two different forms: his first was a larger version, based on the more ancient form, which draped over the right shoulder. This is the one he eventually left as a symbolic gesture on the tomb of Pope Celestine V in L’Aquila after visiting the site of the earthquakes there. Later he had a modified version that was narrower and had bands extending from the center rather than the right shoulder, which is presumably the one that will be used by Pope Francis.

The pallium is a sign of jurisdiction, and the pope always wears the pallium wherever he goes. Metropolitan archbishops only wear theirs within their territory and only as long as they hold the office of metropolitan archbishop (i.e., they do not wear it after retirement). The pallium is a sign of office in the Latin Church worn by the Pope and by metropolitan archbishops

The pallium is a reminder of the ministry of the Good Shepherd, who carries the sheep over his shoulder. The pallium is reminiscent of the feedbag that the shepherd carried to feed the sheep. It was conferred upon the Holy Father by the Protodeacon of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Jean–Louis Tauran, the same cardinal who announced the election of Pope Francis from the loggia.

At the time of his episcopal ordination, a bishop is presented with a ring as a “symbol of the bishop’s fidelity to and nuptial bond with the Church, his spouse, and he is to wear it always.” (Ceremonial of Bishops, no. 58). The Fisherman’s Ring is the ring worn by the pope. It is a gold ring with an image of St. Peter, called to be “a fisher of men,” casting his nets. Above the image is inscribed the pope’s chosen name. The ring is a sign of his authority; in the past, the ring was used to create the wax seal for papal decrees. For this reason, the ring is destroyed upon the death or resignation of the pope. The Fisherman’s Ring was presented to the Holy Father by the dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Angelo Sodano.

The ring Pope Francis will wear bears the image of St. Peter with the keys and was designed by Enrico Manfrini. The Vatican reports that Archbishop Pasquale Macchi, (d. 2006) former personal secretary of Pope Paul VI, kept the wax cast of a ring made for Paul VI by the artist Manfrini, who had made several medals and other artistic objects for Paul VI.  The ring was never cast into metal, and Paul VI always wore another ring that was commissioned at the time of the Second Vatican Council.  Archbishop Macchi left the cast, along with other objects, to Monsignor Ettore Malnati, who worked closely with him for many years.  Monsignor Malnati made a ring of gold-plated silver from the wax cast.  This was offered to Pope Francis, along with several other possible rings, by the Papal Master of Ceremonies through the auspices of Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, retired Prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Bishops.  It was this ring that Pope Francis chose to be the ring of the Fisherman, which was presented to him at the Mass of Inauguration of his Petrine Ministry on March 19, 2013.

Timeline

Key Events Before His Papacy

December 17, 1936: Jorge Mario Bergoglio was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to Italian immigrant parents.

1957: Falls severely sick of pneumonia at age 21, and his right lung is partially removed. March 11,

1958: Enters the novitiate of the Society of Jesus. March 12, 1960: Takes his first vows as Jesuit.

1961-1963: Studies philosophy at San Miguel Seminary in Buenos Aires.

December 13, 1969: Is ordained priest. 1973: Professes his perpetual vows as Jesuit.

1973 – 1979: Serves as superior of Jesuit province of Argentina and Uruguay.

1979-1985: Serves as theology teacher and rector of Colegio Maximo.

1986: Finishes his doctoral thesis in Germany.

June 27, 1992: Is ordained auxiliary bishop of Buenos Aires.

June 3, 1997: Is named coadjutor archbishop of Buenos Aires.

February 28, 1998: Is installed as archbishop of Buenos Aires.

February 21, 2001: Elevated to the College of Cardinals.

April 2005: Participates in Conclave that elects Pope Benedict XVI.

September 2009: Launches a solidarity campaign for the 200th anniversary of the independence of Argentina with the goal of creating 200 charitable agencies by 2016.

Anniversary Interview 

VATICAN CITY (CNS/Cindy Wooden) — When Pope Francis went out onto the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica for the first time, he said he did not prepare what he was going to say, but “I felt deeply that a minister needs the blessing of God, but also of his people.”

He did not know if it was right to explicitly ask the thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square to bless him, so instead he asked them to pray that God would bless him, he said. And he bowed for their prayers.

Marking the second anniversary of his election March 13, Pope Francis spoke about the conclave that elected him in 2013, about his life the last two years and about the future in an interview with Valentina Alazraki of Mexico’s Televisa.

The pope even joked about the reputation Argentines have for being proud or haughty. “You know how an Argentine commits suicide?” he asked Alazraki. “He climbs to the top of his ego and jumps!”

And, he said, while he doesn’t hate being pope, he is not a fan of the travel involved and he really would like to go out of the Vatican unrecognized, perhaps “to a pizzeria to eat a pizza.”

“I have the feeling that my pontificate will be brief,” he said. “Four or five years. I do not know, or maybe two, three. Well, two have already passed. It’s just a vague feeling.”

Perhaps, the pope said, it is like the kind of trick a gambler plays on his mind by convincing himself — when he places a bet — that he will lose; when he does, he is not disappointed. “I do not know what it is, but I have the feeling that the Lord put me here for a brief time…. But it is just a feeling. So I keep the possibility open.”

Pope Benedict XVI’s discernment that he no longer had the energy to carry out the office and his decision to resign to a life of prayer was courageous, Pope Francis said, and it opened the door for popes in the future to do so with greater ease.

But, the pope said, he is opposed to setting an age limit, for example, 80, for a pope’s ministry. While for some theologians “the papacy is a sacrament,” he said he would not go that far, but “it is something special.”

Asked about reports that he received about 40 votes during the 2005 conclave that elected Pope Benedict, Pope Francis refused to answer, “although I could tell because now I have the authority to speak.”

As for the 2013 conclave, he said he had no inkling until the lunch break March 13 “when something happened,” cardinals started coming up to him and asking about his health. “When we returned in the evening, the cake was cooked. Everything happened with just two ballots. It was a surprise for me as well.”

During the voting, he said, he was praying the rosary, which was his normal practice and brings him a great sense of peace. “The same thing occurred then, which for me was a sign that it was God’s will. Peace. And even today I have not lost that sense.”

The cardinals at the conclave interrupted his rosary when he had reached the two-thirds vote necessary to be elected. “They asked me if I accepted. I said yes. I don’t know if they made me take an oath, I don’t remember.”

Questioned about the 2014 extraordinary synod and the upcoming Synod of Bishops on the family, particularly regarding the acceptance of homosexual persons and Communion for divorced and civilly remarried couples, Pope Francis said some people have “unrealistic expectations,” but he is convinced God wants the church to focus on better serving families.

“The family is in crisis,” he said, and it is not the age-old crisis of infidelity, but the future of marriage itself.

“I think the Lord wants us to face this,” Pope Francis said, including through improved “marriage preparation; accompanying cohabitating couples; accompanying those who do marry and are raising a family; supporting those whose marriages have failed and are in a new union; preparing them for the sacrament of marriage, (because) not everyone is ready.”

As for the reform of the Roman Curia, which Pope Francis said really was the “last (royal) court” existing in Europe, he said, “the appearance of a court can be maintained,” but the Curia must be a group of people and structures “at the service of the church, at the service of the bishops.”

Pope Francis: General Audience

Pope Francis: General Audience

Watch the Holy Father's General Audience on YouTube courtesy of Vatican News. Text of each audience is below. 

Pope Francis: Angelus and Regina Coeli

Pope Francis: Angelus and Regina Coeli

Pope Francis prays the Angelus prayer every Sunday at noon from his window overlooking St. Peter's Square. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Pope Francis

Pope Francis

What did Jorge Mario Bergoglio do before becoming Pope?

Jorge Mario Bergoglio resided in Argentina prior to becoming pope. He was the son of two Italian immigrants and very focused on his studies during his youth. He holds advanced degrees in chemistry, philosophy, and theology and worked in a lab as a chemist for a few years prior to pursuing the priesthood in 1960.

When did Jorge Mario Bergoglio become Pope?

Pope Francis was elected to the Papacy on March 13, 2013, succeeding Benedict XVI.

Where did the name “Francis” come from?

For many years, it has been customary for each Pope to choose their own papal name. When Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected Pope he was reminded to “not forget the poor” and these words reminded him of St Francis. He decided to use this as his papal name. St. Francis is the patron saint of animals and ecology and remembered for his love for animals and desire to help the poor.

How many years does a Pope serve?

Typically, the papal post is held until death. However, Francis’s predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, became the first Pope in over 600 years to resign from the Papacy.

Social Media

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Vatican News

Additional Resources

Vatican Links

Dicastery for Communication

The Dicastery of Communications was instituted by Pope Francis with his Motu Proprio on the current context of communications on 27 June 2015.  The new Dicastery was entrusted with the task of the overall reorganization of the entire communications system of the Holy See, thus becoming the single point of reference for communication, which is always more increasingly complex and interdependent. In this new system, all of the realities which dealt with communications have been brought together.

Vatican News

Vatican News is the new information system of the Holy See.  It began on June 27th 2015 with the publication of a Motu Proprio by Pope Francis which announced the creation of a new Dicastery of the Roman Curia: the Vatican Secretariat for Communication. Learn more here.

Holy See Press Office

The Holy See Press Office Bulletin publishes the official news of the activities of the Holy Father and of the various departments of the Holy See.

Vatican.va

The main website of the Vatican that includes full speeches, homilies and documents by Pope Francis and his predecessors.