White Smoke: New, Argentinean, Conservative Pope

Meet Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the new head of the Catholic Church. The first pope from South America, the 76-year-old is against gay marriage and free distribution of contraceptives. 

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Jorge Mario Bergoglio (Juan Mabromata/AFP/Getty Images)

It's official. Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, a Jesuit from Argentina, has been selected as the next leader of the Catholic Church. He'll be the first-ever Latin American pope (to be clear, that's a description of the region he calls home, not his ethnicity), he's 76 years old and he'll go by the name "Francis."

A little about him from a CNN piece weighing the chances that someone from South America would be chosen:

Until last year, Bergoglio was the archbishop of Buenos Aires before stepping down because of his age. He is 76. Bergoglio is considered a straight-shooter who calls things as he sees them, and a follower of the church's most conservative wing. He has clashed with the government of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner over his opposition to gay marriage and free distribution of contraceptives.

And more about the significance of his selection, from the New York Times:

Francis is the first pope not born in Europe since Columbus alighted in the New World. In choosing him, the cardinals sent a powerful message that the future of the Church lies in the Global South, home to the bulk of the world’s Catholics. One of Benedict’s abiding preoccupations was the rise of secularism in Europe, and he took the name Benedict after the founder of European monastic culture.

The new pope inherits a church wrestling with an array of challenges that intensified during his predecessor, Benedict XVI -- from a priest shortage and growing competition from evangelical churches in the Southern Hemisphere where most of the world’s Catholics live, to a sexual abuse crisis that has undermined the church’s moral authority in the West, to difficulties governing the Vatican itself. 

Read more at the New York Times and CNN.

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