How Pope Francis Unexpectedly Became Pope
Pope Benedict XVI shocked the world as well as the entire Catholic Church when he announced on February 11, 2013, that he was going to resign as Supreme Head of the Church. Effective February 28 that same year, less than a month later, the announcement meant that Benedict XVI would become Pope Emeritus, and the See of Saint Peter would then become vacant.
A new pope would have to be elected by the College of Cardinals. The last Bishop of Rome to resign as pope had taken place 600 years before (Pope Gregory XII in 1415).
The Conclave assembled on March 12, 2013, and the next day on the fifth ballot, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was elected successor to Pope Benedict XVI and the 265th successor of Saint Peter. He was the first Latin American pope, the first pope from the “New World,” and the first Jesuit pope as well. Lastly, Francis is the first non-European pope since the Syrian Pope Gregory III in 741 AD.
Francis took his name after Saint Francis of Assisi who lived in the 12th century and is the co-patron of Italy (along with St. Catherine of Siena). St. Francis is one of the most famous and most popular of saints among Catholics and non-Catholics alike. St. Francis lived a life of poverty and worked among the poor. Jorge Bergoglio practiced a similar lifestyle as priest, bishop, and cardinal before being elected Pope, so his choice seemed quite natural.
Like his moniker saint, Pope Francis embodies humility and simplicity. Unlike Pope Benedict XVI, who was a scholar and professor par excellence, Pope Francis, although no intellectual slouch, often speaks off the cuff. Pope St. John Paul was a philosopher, and Pope Benedict a theologian. Pope Francis is seen as a pastor more than anything else.