ROME, March 13, 2013 - By electing as pope at the fourth scrutiny the archbishop of Buenos Aires Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the conclave has made a move as surprising as it is brilliant.
Surprising for those - almost everyone - who had not noticed, during the preceding days, the effective appearance of his name in the conversations among the cardinals. His relatively advanced age, 76 years and three months, led him to be classified more among the great electors than among the possible elect.
In the conclave of 2005 the opposite had happened for him. Bergoglio was one of the most decisive supporters of the appointment of Joseph Ratzinger as pope. And instead he found himself voted for, against his own will, precisely by those who wanted to block the appointment of Benedict XVI.
The fact remains that both one and the other became pope. Bergoglio with the unprecedented name of Francis.
A name that reflects his humble life. Having become archbishop of Buenos Aires 1998, he left empty the sumptuous episcopal residence next to the cathedral. He went to live in an apartment a short distance away, together with another elderly bishop. In the evening he was the one who saw to the cooking. He rarely rode in cars, getting around by bus in the cassock of an ordinary priest.
But he is also a man who knows how to govern. With firmness and against the tide. He is a Jesuit - the first to have become pope - and during the terrible 1970's, when the dictatorship was raging and some of his confrères were ready to embrace the rifle and apply the lessons of Marx, he energetically opposed the tendency as provincial of the Society of Jesus in Argentina.
He has always carefully kept his distance from the Roman curia. It is certain that he will want it to be lean, clean, and loyal.
He is a pastor of sound doctrine and of concrete realism. To the Argentines reduced to hunger he has given much more than bread. He has urged them to pick the catechism back up again. That of the ten commandments and of the beatitudes. “This is the way of Jesus,” he would say. And one who follows Jesus understands that “trampling the dignity of a woman, of a man, of a child, of an elderly person is a grave sin that cries out to heaven,” and therefore decides to do it no more.
The simplicity of his vision makes itself felt in his holiness of life. With his few and simple first words as pope he immediately won over the crowd packed into St. Peter's Square. He had them pray in silence.
And he also had them pray for his predecessor, Benedict XVI, whom he did not call “pope,” but “bishop.”
The surprise is only beginning.