It’s been five years since Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, was elected as the 266th Pope of the Catholic Church on March 13, 2013. He was born in Argentina in 1936, the son of an Italian immigrant, and was ordained to the priesthood in 1969. He became the first Jesuit and the first South American to be elected to the papacy.
Pope Francis has won the admiration of people around the world through his profound humility. When the Holy Father emerged on the balcony over St. Peter’s Square in his first public appearance as the new pope, he strayed from tradition by first asking everyone to take a moment to pray for him. He has continued to request prayers on a regular basis throughout his papacy.
It’s the simple things that so many people love about Pope Francis. Following his election, he took the group bus back to the hotel and paid his own hotel bill upon checking out. He declined living in the papal apartments, and chose rather to live in the guesthouse. During public appearances, the pope often chooses to ride in an open-air vehicle and frequently stops to interact with pilgrims.
In the past five years, Pope Francis has made it clear that he desires that the world understand God’s great mercy. The Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy was held from December 8, 2015 to November 20, 2016 and was celebrated across the world. Dioceses opened special Holy Doors for pilgrims to visit and the faithful were encouraged to focus on practicing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Pope Francis demonstrates the works of mercy during his frequent Mercy Fridays, on which he sets aside time to visit local prisons, schools, nursing homes, hospitals, and other such places in Rome to pray and spend time with the people there. He is known for embracing and giving special attention to those on the peripheries of society, such as sick children, people with physical disabilities or deformities, immigrants, and the elderly.
Pope Francis has also diligently advocated for peace among nations. In 2014, he hosted the presidents of Israel and Palestine for a prayer summit, during which the leaders all prayed together for an end to division and violence among nations and faiths. He has been outspoken about the need to embrace and welcome immigrants and refugees. In July 2013, he visited Lampedusa, an Italian island that is a major point of arrival for refugees, and prayed for the desperate migrants who had drowned trying to reach Europe.
There have been countless memorable moments during Pope Francis’ first five years, but how could we forget his historic visit to the United States of America? The Holy Father was the first pope to address a joint session of Congress. He had a very busy schedule that included visiting the September 11 Memorial at the World Trade Centers and praying for the victims of the terror attacks, meeting with the Little Sisters of the Poor, and attending the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.
We offer our continued prayers for Pope Francis and thank him for his service to the Catholic Church and the world!