As Jorge Bergoglio begins his new life as Pope Francis, we join in celebration with the Roman Catholic Church in the election of the first Latin American, first Jesuit pontiff. With the selection of the name Francis (in reference to St. Francis of Assisi) it appears Bergoglio seeks to ring the bells of St. Peter's for global inclusion, care for the marginalized and -- we sincerely hope -- inter-religious cooperation.
Pope Francis has much to live up to in his namesake. St. Francis is perhaps the most popular Catholic saint, founder of the Franciscan order, and one of Italy's two patron saints. As Pope Francis moves from his humble apartment outside Buenos Aires to the Vatican palace in Rome, the pressures and compromises of the office he now embodies doubtless will challenge him.
When St. Francis of Assisi renounced his worldly possessions in the 12th century, he famously stripped his clothes on the steps of the cathedral, declaring himself committed to God alone. As the story goes, a priest quickly covered his naked body with a robe, some say symbolizing the protection of the church.
This week, Pope Francis has acquired a new set of clothes. In accepting the papacy, he 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. We hope he will dialogue with all who are committed to honesty, open inquiry, social equality, economic justice and understanding between the religions.
Jorge Bergoglio's past has not been perfect, nor his public record spotless, for, after all, he is human. But for the new man he has become as Pope Francis -- for his outlook, for his stamina, for his health -- we pray. We join together with millions around the world to ask God to bless him and give him wisdom as he leads the Catholic Church into the possibilities of a better future.
Co-written by Jerry D. Campbell, Claremont School of Theology; Tamar Frankiel, Academy for Jewish Religion, California; and Jihad Turk, Bayan Claremont of the Claremont Lincoln University Council of Presidents.