Until a week ago, there had not been a pope who also belonged to a religious order in more than a century and a half. No Jesuit had ever been elected pontiff. I had thought this would never happen, in part because Jesuits make a promise not to seek ecclesiastical offices.
Between losses to charismatic Protestantism and a growing number of the religiously unaffiliated, especially among the region's impoverished youth, Catholicism in Latin America finds itself at a critical juncture. New Evangelization will thus most likely become the focal point of Pope Francis' papacy.
St. Francis, like no one before or since, captured the essence of what it meant to follow the example of Jesus Christ. Jesus commanded and St. Francis, more than any other human being, attempted to fulfill his simple yet unachievable demand.
In accepting the papacy, Pope Francis now is shrouded in the protection of the church's political vestments. As representatives of an interreligious university, we trust that Pope Francis will wisely recognize the transparency of his new clothes and hew to the naked simplicity of his namesake's example.
After having watched leaders in the United States who had good intentions, get lost on their intended way, I have five humble suggestions for this Pope and his team at the Vatican.
Pope Francis refused to sit on the throne, preferring to stand with his flock. He will walk and lead with a new style of simplicity following the footsteps of his first love, Jesus Christ.
Pope Francis could use the choice of his name to recall the message of St. Francis' teaching on the holiness of self-chosen poverty, not just for individuals but especially for the church which claims to represent the message of Jesus himself.
As an environmental leader and as a Catholic Latina mother, I hope Pope Francis will be a voice against climate change, deadly pollution, and the destruction of natural resources that threaten our planet and the lives of the poor most severely.
The simple details of his apartment, his use of mass transit, his visits to wash the feet of AIDS patients, his passion for the poor, cooking his own food, all tell us that this man is about lifestyle Christianity more than perpetual doctrinal food fights.
I spent 18 years as a practicing Catholic, and after much consideration, I realize I wouldn't be the towering gay organism I am now without my church background.
If St. Francis' love for all of God's creation, animals, plants, rivers and mountains is alive and with us today, just like his ascetic mission of poverty, then so is his bold peacemaking with the Muslim world. This is a mission worthy of his name, and one can only hope that the current Pope Francis heeds this call.
It is said that Pope Francis has a preference for the poor and that he spent much of his ministry healing the sick with his visits. Perhaps now he can heal the Catholic Church of its atrocities and lay down his condemnation of LGBT people since Christ never mentioned anything about them.
Perhaps it is time for the Third Vatican Council. Because Vatican III is going to be the only way sweeping change will ever take place within the Catholic Church.
The Republican Party, in the wake of its failure to retake the White House, and the Catholic Church, in the aftermath of a series of scandals, actually have a lot in common.
But at the very same time as the cardinals sat clandestinely in Rome worrying about leaks, survivors of childhood sex abuse and visionary legislators across the country like Marge Markey have been demanding bright sunshine here in the United States.