Jorge Mario Bergoglio, 76, is not only the first South American pope in the history of the Church, but he is also the first Jesuit pope and the only member of the Society of Jesus present in the College of Cardinals, which voted to select Joseph Ratzinger's successor. Never before has a Jesuit been tasked with leading the Church, likely because the religious order founded by Ignatius of Loyola in 1534 was centered around a figure who -- at least in the collective imagination -- could be seen as clashing with the Holy Father: the Superior General, also known as the Father General or, more commonly, the Black Pope.
We interviewed Father Giovanni La Manna, a Jesuit and the president of Centro Astalli, the Italian branch of the Jesuit Refugee Service. He explained to us why he does not believe clashes will occur between the two religious authorities, thanks to the "the new pope's spiritual and human intelligence," which will avoid all forms of conflict with the Father General. And as for the name chosen by the new pope -- Francis -- the Jesuit has no doubts: it is an homage to St. Francisco de Jasso Azpilcueta Atondo y Aznares de Javier, better known as St. Francis Xavier, one of the first blessed witnesses of the Society of Jesus.
Jesuits must obey not only the pope, but also the Father General -- the so-called Black Pope -- who is currently Adolfo Nicolás. How will they relate to these two figures?
I believe that the new pope is an exceptional person, in both a spiritual and a human sense, and that he will have the maturity to avoid any type of conflict. As for the mission of Jesuits, they take a vow which goes beyond obedience: the so-called "fourth vow of obedience to the pope." Based on this vow, the pope can ask Jesuits to undertake a mission at any moment, and Jesuits are bound to obey him, regardless of the Father General's wishes. But I am certain that this won't happen: Francis I will not create conflicts between obeying the Father General and His Holiness.
What is the significance of the first Jesuit pope for the Church's history?
It is certainly something new, and like all new things it will bring joy and curiosity among the faithful. Personally, I am very happy and curious to see how a Jesuit pope will move forward.
From your perspective, will there also be some recognition of your order?
The new pope is a person who received a Jesuit education, and those who have been Jesuits for years cannot erase their origins. His education influenced the way he conducted himself as the Archbishop of Buenos Aires; a man is unlikely to forget that which has shaped him. The fact that he is a Jesuit will influence the way he serves the Church. We have already had a taste of this in tonight's greeting -- in his request that the faithful pray for him even before blessing him. Just as the pope blesses the people of the Church, Francis I asked his people to bless and pray for him.
What does his name mean? Do you think he chose it in reference to St. Francis and his vow of poverty?
Since His Holiness has a Jesuit history, I very much think that he chose it with St. Francis Xavier in mind (San Francisco de Jasso Azpilcueta Atondo y Aznares de Javier), one of the first missionaries who tried to evangelize in new lands. I believe that the choice is rooted in His Holiness' own history and therefore in that of the Jesuits.
Thinking and living as a Jesuit, I immediately thought of this reference to our Francis Xavier, a important saint for Jesuits and one of the first blessed witnesses of the Society of Jesus, who spent his entire life on his mission of evangelization. I am sure that this name rings in the spirit of His Holiness.
What kind of pope will Frances I be? Will he offer a break from the past, or continuity?
He will certainly keep the path of his predecessors in mind. But he will assign priorities in his own way, and the fact that he is a Jesuit will affect how he identifies these priorities. Considering the name he has chosen, he will surely be a man committed to the New Evangelization in the Year of Faith.
He will guide the Church with the attention of someone looking at the world from another point of view -- in his case, from Argentina. And in that way he will help bring fresh air and a review of priorities to the universal Church. All of this brings nothing but excitement and enthusiasm to the Church. Returning again to his first speech as pope: By asking the faithful to bless him, he began a dialogue -- a new reciprocal relationship. It is not a one-way speech, but one which bespeaks a sense of shared reality.