Debora Lima/Contributing Writer
Atheism has increased consistently over the years and it is most prevalent in Millennials, making it highly plausible that the selection of the 266th pope was an event that went under the radar of Generation Y.
The conclave convened in the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City following the Feb. 28 resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, and on March 13, white smoke billowed from the Chapel’s chimney, signaling the election of a new pope. As the world’s most influential religious leader, the pope wields an immense amount of power and thus, the inauguration of Pope Francis I, born Jorge Mario Bergoglio, is ultimately of great consequence to the world.
“The election of a new pope is important news for everyone in the world because in a modern papacy, we have the new pope being not just the spiritual leader of over 1 billion people, but also the head of state of Vatican City as an independent state,” said Rigoberto Vega, the FIU Catholic Panthers’ minister. “The pope has a voice, a moral conscience and authority on issues concerning poverty, human rights, the environment, war and peace and religious liberty and freedom that goes beyond the limits of the Catholic Church. He will be an ally for all those who share humanistic values.”
Francis, the first pope from Latin America, will hopefully also mark a new chapter for the Catholic church. Ahead of him is the vexing problem of restoring the credibility of an institution whose reputation has been marred by headlines reporting cases of sexual abuse and corruption.
“He has the great challenge of having to continue to address the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church,” Vega said. “And must reconcile Christians who are divided among many issues within the Church and other denominations.”
Catholics have been described in recent years as a divided flock, but many speculate Francis will successfully respond to opposing demands as the first ever Jesuit to become pope. Vega predicts that Francis will be a “unifying force” despite the fact that Jesuits have always been a controversial group.
“[He] will appeal to liberals because of his concern for the poor and social issues of equality, and will appeal to conservatives based on his doctrinal and moral orthodoxy,” Vega said.
That a Jesuit was elected Pope is remarkable not only because it is a first, but because part of becoming a Jesuit is taking a vow of not seeking ecclesiastical honors or high positions.
“For a Jesuit to become a bishop and then pope speaks of the incredible record of service and leadership that he has offered the Church throughout his life as a priest,” said Vega.
The accession of a new pope is deemed deserving of reverence because the papacy is a reminder that the Roman Catholic Church is the only institution in the world that can boast having withstood the test of time and the havoc wreaked by a multitude of barbaric rulers and destructive empires, all the while expanding its influence to serve as a spiritual guiding light for more than 1.2 billion souls.
“If nothing else, Pope Francis is one more voice for those who can’t speak for themselves: the poor, the diseased and the abused,”junior public relations major David Feldman said. “That’s something everyone should care about and find admirable, regardless of their religious beliefs or lack thereof.”