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6 key things everyone should know about Pope Francis
From the trivial to the rote to the merely fascinating, the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina has an interesting past
 
Pope Francis, 76, was ordained as a priest when he was almost 33.
Pope Francis, 76, was ordained as a priest when he was almost 33. Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Minutes after Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran took to the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica on Wednesday to announce "Habemus papam," everybody knew three things about the new Roman Catholic pontiff: Pope Francis is from Argentina, he's a Jesuit, and he has a reputation for humility — as archbishop of Buenos Aires, he lived in a simple apartment instead of the archbishop's palace, cooked his own meals, and rode public transportation to work instead of taking a chauffeured limousine.

If you dig a little deeper you'll find that Pope Francis doesn't fit in today's ideological boxes (which is probably why politicians of all stripes had nice things to say about him) — he is firmly against gay marriage, adoption by gay couples, abortion, and most use of contraception, but also against fiscal austerity and uninhibited free markets, and he has both washed and kissed the feet of AIDS patients and chastised priests in his archdiocese for refusing to baptize babies born out of wedlock.

But even that's just scratching the surface of the life of the 76-year-old newly minted pontiff. Here are six things everyone should know about the interview-averse former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio:

1. He will be Pope Francis, not Francis I
Much like Queen Elizabeth wasn't Elizabeth I until the current queen took the British throne (500 years later), Pope Francis won't have a number affixed to his title until a future pope follows his lead. "It will become Francis I after we have a Francis II," said Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi. (Oddly, Pope John Paul I — the last pope to pick a never-used name, during his 33-day reign in 1978 — "decided to add the 'I' himself," says Mark Memmott at NPR News. "No other pope, it seems, has declared himself to be a 'first.'")

2. It's a big deal for a Jesuit to take the name Francis
Lombardi also said that Francis chose his name to honor St. Francis of Assisi, the mystical 13th-century founder of the Franciscan order, rather than St. Francis Xavier, one of the first members of the new pope's own Jesuit order. This is remarkable because the Franciscans and the Jesuits have a long, sometimes bitter rivalry. (Google "Jesuit jokes" for a flavor of the antagonism.)

"By choosing the name of the founder of his community's traditional rivals," says Rocco Palmo at Whispers in the Loggia, Pope Francis "has signaled three things: His desire to be a force of unity in a polarized fold, a heart for the poor, and his intent to 'repair God's house, which has fallen into ruin'... that is, to rebuild the church" — a call St. Francis of Assisi heard while praying before a crucifix.

3. He only has one lung
The other one was removed while he was a teenager, after a serious respiratory infection. Pope Benedict XVI resigned in part because he felt he wasn't up to the rigors of the modern papacy, including ample travel and nonstop events, say The Associated Press' Brian Murphy and Michael Warren. "Francis appears in good health, but his age and possible limitations from his single lung raise questions about whether he can face the demands of the position."

4. He holds degrees in chemistry, philosophy, and theology
Jesuits are known for their work in education, and Pope Francis is no exception. Before joining the order, he earned a master's degree in chemistry, and after becoming a Jesuit earned degrees in philosophy and theology. He taught those last two subjects, plus literature and psychology, at the college level before being named a bishop. "It's no easier to predict the trajectory of a papacy than the election of a pope," says Peter Folan, a Jesuit himself, in The Jesuit Post. "His biography, though, suggests that his ministry will be learned."

His master's in chemistry is especially important for the Catholic Church in the 21st century, says Hank Campbell at Science 2.0. In fact, we've now "had back-to-back popes with solid support for science," which carries on "a long tradition of advancement of science among Catholics" — believe it or not, "the Catholics have the oldest science institute in the world," and Galileo was one of its first presidents. "Pope Francis is a humble man and that's good, because 21st-century science is humbling. The world is going to change pretty fast."

5. He worked as a bouncer at a bar
To help pay for his pre-ecclesiastical studies, Bergoglio once worked as a bouncer in a Buenos Aires nightclub.

6. He had a girlfriend once, and liked to tango
Bergoglio didn't join the Jesuits until he was 21, and wasn't ordained as a priest until he was almost 33, so it's no real surprise that he lived the life of a normal Argentine chemistry student. This included a love of tango, and at least one girlfriend he danced it with, according to a rare, lengthy 2010 interview with journalists Francesca Ambrogetti and Sergio Rubin. His girlfriend "was in a group of friends we went dancing with," Bergoglio said. "Then I discovered my religious vocation."

Sources: ANSA, The Associated Press (2), Gazzetta del Sud, Jesuit Post, The New York Times, NPR, Reuters, Science 2.0, Whispers in the Loggia

 
Peter Weber is a senior editor at TheWeek.com, and has handled the editorial night shift since 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian, and plays in an Austin rock band.

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