Jorge Mario Bergoglio was announced new Pope tonight, 3-13-13, at 8:15 p.m. in the Vatican at Rome, to massive cheering and the playing of bands. Taking the name, Francis the First, or Pope Francisco, he spoke plainly and directly with humility and kindness between traditional prayers. The selection of a Cardinal from Buenos Aires, Argentina, may signal a focal shift for the Church.
As a Transtheist who accepts no single, received and established religion but instead holds by universal spirituality without doctrine, ritual or mythology, I found myself surprisingly moved and moist eyed. I have long regarded such religions as obstacles to fundamental human progress, yet it is undeniable that they have contributed much to maintaining humanity and spiritual dimension in the world. It is mankind’s continuing misfortune that the spiritual dimension has too often become demented and reduced to a sort of ritualized animality culminating in schismatic conflict and violence. Religion has brought war to its adherents as often as peace, and misery as often as joy. We may not blankly share the late Cristopher Hitchen’s simple observation that “Religion poisons everything,” because in fact, genuine spirituality often rescues religion from itself and humanity from religion.
It is too early yet to be certain, yet it seems something important may have happened in our world. Though the papacy remains seated in Rome, it will be led for a time by this mature and widely respected prelate from the New World. Like John the 23rd, he seems to be as much a man of the people as of the Church. Obviously, the Conclave took as much into account the millions of Catholics now in the southern hemisphere as they did his personal qualities and popularity. New World representation suggests recognition of widespread discontent with some of the Old World’s ways and deficiencies of conduct in allowing, rationalizing and hiding the sexual and venal crimes of a few churchmen, although these crimes infest the Western Hemisphere as well as the Eastern.
Pope Francis comes from Buenos Aires which means “fresh atmosphere.” This will most likely characterize with hope this new papal dispensation.