The year of 2013 has already become an eventful year for the Roman Catholics and in the Vatican City, which began in February when Pope Benedict XVI decided to resign his position, due to what he said were health reasons and the inability to perform the job to the best of his ability. He held the position for nearly eight years, which was an average reign compared to others, which wasn't as long as Pope John Paul II (27 years) or as short as Pope John Paul I (33 days), but during his time, we saw Pope Benedict XVI as "God's Rottweiler," a stern, no-nonsense kind of guy. It has been six hundred years since a pope has stepped down from their position, when Gregory XII did such a thing.
Our new pope is Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina, but he is now known as Pope Francis (or Pope Francis I), being the first pope to take the name of St. Francis of Assisi, who was well known for his love for animals. This Pope Francis, however, holds a place in his heart for the poor, even making the humble decision to use a bus instead of private transportation that could easily be provided to him. He's seventy-six years old, has one lung since the other was removed due to sickness when he was younger, and is the first pope not from Europe is nearly a thousand years, the first from the Americas.
Pope Francis I will definitely have a lot on his plate as he enters the papacy. He will have to respond to the issues facing the church and the social issues that are threatening them, such as abortion and same-sex marriage. The Roman Catholic church ought to stand up for what it believes in and not allow the government or higher figures to interfere with their practices. The American government and church were never meant to mix, so the government has every right to make the decision they wish about marriage, but need to allow the churches to make their own rules within their church. Pope Francis I will be facing a modern era and will have to declare the direction that should and will fit best for the Catholic church.
This is far from being anything new. In 1958, after the death of controversial Pope Pius XII, Pope John XXIII was named the pope. While he wasn't expected to be around long due to his age, he made a huge impact with his happy personality and ability to please the people. It was during his reign that they did away with holding masses only in Latin and instead deciding to hold masses in the local language (for America, it would be English). While some would argue otherwise, this was a strategy to encourage anyone, regardless of how fluent they were in Latin, to attend church and express their love for God. After all, expressing your love for God is truly what church is all about, isn't it? This has not been changed.
Pope John Paul II, who was pope from 1978 to 2005, is the first image I see when I think of a pope. Perhaps it was because he was the first pope I remember or simply that he was the pope for so long. Nevertheless, he held the position when drastic changes were being made. He saw the invention of the Popemobile and sent the first Papal email. He was also a people person and really executed his job efficiently. However, his key moment came when he survived an assassination attempt by Mehmet Ali Agca on May 13, 1981. Two years after the assassination, Pope John Paul II went to personally visit Agca and forgive him for committing such a bad deed. While he immediately issued a statement of forgiveness after being shot, the fact that he made a personal visit to forgive him was the best thing he could have possibly did. It shows that God forgives everyone who is sorry for their misdeeds, no matter how heinous the crime. The pope is the highest figure in the Catholic church and Pope John Paul II held that position very well.
As for Pope Francis, he will have challenges he will have to face, but I'm sure he will do an excellent job as the newest leader of the Roman Catholic church. It will be quite exciting to see what an era with Pope Francis as pope will look like. We will just have to see. God bless the pope on executing his job to the best of his ability.