The choice of Jorge Bergoglio as pope shows a decisive shift from Europe
Pope Francis represents an extraordinary leap away from the conservative and cautious nature of the last two papacies
The Guardian, Wednesday 13 March 2013 16.51 EDT
The choice of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio to take office as Pope Francis is an extraordinary leap away from the conservative and cautious nature of the last two papacies. Although Bergoglio is described as a moderate conservative, the Jesuits have a reputation in the modern church for rigorous and independent thought, and under Pope John Paul II they were in deep disfavour for their sympathy with liberation theology in Latin America.
The election of a Latin American Jesuit would also have been unthinkable 30 years ago. The choice of Bergoglio shows a decisive shift in the church’s centre of gravity away from Europe and towards the continent where most Catholics live, and where the challenges to the church are rather different to those in Europe.
The overwhelming problem in Latin America is the shortage of priests and the shrinkage of believers. Although 40% of the world’s Catholic population live in the continent, it can no longer be automatically assumed that a Latin American is a Catholic.