News that Argentina’s Jorge Bergoglio was elected pope yesterday set off wild celebrations in Argentina and give further support to the oft-cited sentiment that God is Argentine. How could He be otherwise?
Having come from seemingly out of the mix, new Pope Francis was not unknown but neither was he apparently a front-runner in the election to succeed Benedict. Of course, if you believe that the election was the pre-ordained manifestation of God’s sovereign will, then it hardly matters whether he was well-known or not.
What’s interesting from the Latin American perspective is that, as I pointed out in my blog post of February 13, the region is now not just a recipient of missionaries but a significant source of missionaries worldwide—both Catholic and Protestant—and arguably the most vibrant, growing region for the Christian faith.
That the new pope was drawn from the Americas is a recognition of these demographic trends, and acknowledgement that a new, non-European perspective would be valuable in addressing the concerns of the modern Catholic Church.
Pope Francis “shares the view that the Church should have a missionary role, that gets out to meet people, that is active” in promoting the faith, according to biographer Francesca Ambrogetti.
At the same time, orthodoxy is unlikely to be overturned. Pope Francis is reportedly deeply attached to traditional Roman Catholic teachings—how could a pope be otherwise? If he weren’t, he wouldn’t have been elected.
He has spoken out publicly on matters of faith and conscience including comments challenging the Argentine government’s efforts to promote homosexual union in 2010 as “an attempt to destroy God’s plan” rather than simply a political fight.
As Latin America struggles to define itself in the months and years ahead, the new pope’s voice will carry, and will most likely play an important and meaningful role in the social issues of the day. Perhaps that was also on the minds of the electors. And perhaps God really is Argentine.