The archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, has been selected to become the next Pope, leading the Catholic Church. The new pontiff is the Argentine-born son of an Italian railway worker and is seen as a compassionate conservative.
According to most reports, Cardinal Bergoglio came in second during the 2005 balloting that ultimately elected Benedict XVI. He is 76-years-old and the Jesuit is said to highly regard simplicity and humility and would encourage priests to engage in evangelical pursuits to rebuild the Catholic Church.
Pope Francis will be installed on March 19, the Feast of St. Joseph.
Cardinal Bergoglio has invited his clergy and laity to oppose both abortion and euthanasia.
In a previous homily, Cardinal Bergoglio urged pro-life “messengers” to testify personally a love for life in the battle against the “culture of death”. And he encouraged them to defend life to its natural conclusion.
“We cannot embrace the culture of life if we do not put our roots in Jesus, if we are not United to him as a branch of the vine in the trunk”, he continued.
He once called abortion a “death sentence” for unborn children, during a 2007 speech and likening opposition to abortion to opposition to the death penalty.
In an October 2, 2007 speech Bergoglio said that “we aren’t in agreement with the death penalty,” but “in Argentina we have the death penalty. A child conceived by the rape of a mentally ill or retarded woman can be condemned to death.”
The remarks came during the presentation of a document called the Aparecida Document, a joint statement of the bishops of Latin America.
In the document, the new Pope referred to abortion and communion, saying “we should commit ourselves to ‘eucharistic coherence’, that is, we should be conscious that people cannot receive holy communion and at the same time act or speak against the commandments, in particular when abortion, euthanasia, and other serious crimes against life and family are facilitated. This responsibility applies particularly to legislators, governors, and health professionals.”
Archbishop Bergoglio said then that “the most mentioned word in the Aparecida Document is ‘life’, because the Church is very conscious of the fact that the cheapest thing in Latin America, the thing with the lowest price, is life.”
The new pontiff also denounced euthanasia and assisted suicide, calling it a “culture of discarding” the elderly.
“In Argentina there is clandestine euthanasia. Social services pay up to a certain point; if you pass it, ‘die, you are very old’. Today, elderly people are discarded when, in reality, they are the seat of wisdom of the society,” he said “The right to life means allowing people to live and not killing, allowing them to grow, to eat, to be educated, to be healed, and to be permitted to die with dignity.”
White smoke began billowing out of the chimney of the St. Peter’s Basilica at approximately 7:06 p.m. local time, meaning the Catholic Church has a new Pope who will lead the pro-life church and succeed Pope Benedict XVI. They reached a consensus on a candidate in the second round of balloting Wednesday afternoon.
In stepping down, Pope Benedict emphasized that carrying out the duties of being pope — the leader of more than a billion Roman Catholics worldwide — requires “both strength of mind and body.”
“After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths due to an advanced age are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry,” he told the cardinals. “I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only by words and deeds but no less with prayer and suffering.
“However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the barque of St. Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary — strengths which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.”
Benedict called his choice “a decision of great importance for the life of the church.”
Pope Benedict has been considered a hero for pro-life advocates due to his consistent record of advancing the pro-life teachings of the Catholic Church.
Earlier this year, in his annual address to the Members of the Diplomatic Corp accredited to the Holy See, Pope Benedict expressed concern over ongoing efforts to expand legalized abortion and destroy innocent life.
Pope Benedict also criticized the recent Inter-American Court of Human Rights decision that struck down a Costa Rican law that prohibited in vitro fertilization by redefining when life begins and ruling the embryo does not have the legal status of “person”.
At the same time, I must note with dismay that, in various countries, even those of Christian tradition, efforts are being made to introduce or expand legislation which decriminalizes abortion. Direct abortion, that is to say willed as an end or as a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law. In affirming this, the Catholic Church is not lacking in understanding and mercy, also towards the mother involved. Rather, it is a question of being vigilant lest the law unjustly alter the balance between the right to life of the mother and that of the unborn child, a right belonging equally to both. In this area, the recent decision of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights regarding in vitro fertilization, which arbitrarily redefines the moment of conception and weakens the defence of unborn life, is also a source of concern.
Pope Benedict also noted how “human rights” is being used to liberalize policy that is self-centered and self-seeking.
Sadly, especially in the West, one frequently encounters ambiguities about the meaning of human rights and their corresponding duties. Rights are often confused with exaggerated manifestations of the autonomy of the individual, who becomes self-referential, no longer open to encounter with God and with others, and absorbed only in seeking to satisfy his or her own needs. To be authentic, the defence of rights must instead consider human beings integrally, in their personal and communitarian dimensions.
In his annual message for the World Day of Peace Jan. 1, Pope Benedict said he is concerned about continued attacks on human dignity and human rights, including from abortion, euthanasia and attempts to restrict religious freedom on pro-life issues, like the Obama administration’s HHS mandate.
The Catholic Church leader said some are promoting a “false peace” and “false rights or freedoms,” by employing “the clever use of ambiguous expressions aimed at promoting a supposed right to abortion and euthanasia.”
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“Anyone who loves peace cannot tolerate attacks and crimes against life,” he said.
Pope Benedict said governments recognize and uphold “the right to invoke the principle of conscientious objection in the face of laws or government measures that offend against human dignity, such as abortion and euthanasia.”
“Sadly, even in countries of long-standing Christian tradition, instances of religious intolerance are becoming more numerous, especially in relation to Christianity and those who simply wear identifying signs of their religion.