So, you wonder what kind of Pope will my fellow countryman Jorge Bergoglio (aka Francis) be? In two words: a very, very political one. Unlike his predecessor Ratzinger, this is not a man of cabinets but a man of the streets. He was the typical regular boy raised in the typical lower-medium class neighborhood of Buenos Aires, with a peculiarity: he chose to become a priest (against his mother’s strong opposition). And he chose to do it the hardest way: in the Society of Jesus; so, as any Jesuit, is a man who knows of asceticism mixed with hard-working study.
Time and place is important: Bergoglio came to his priesthood responsibilities when Argentina was torn apart between leftists and rightists. Many young priests were seduced by the “Theology of Liberation” and decided to reside in the shanty towns in search of a “revolutionary” Jesus confronted with the “high priests” and the “merchants of the Temple”. Bergoglio (like the Peronist faction he was linked to, Guardia de Hierro) sought a “third position”: to bring the poor into the Church without dissolving it amongst them. This is the root of his ambiguous behavior towards the last ferocious dictatorship: he silently helped those who appealed to him while left alone those who refused to acknowledge the new circumstances (this is the case of two young priests discussed in the press nowadays).
Cardinal Bergoglio became the chief of the Argentine Church when the country struggled to overcome the deepest crisis of its history. While he may not be against the neo-keynesian approach adopted by Nestor and Cristina Kirchner, he may be felt stranded by their center-left rhetoric and their emphasized proximity to Human Rights organizations which resented the complicity of the Church’s hierarchy with the dictatorship. So, he became involved in a competition with them and closer to the dispersed political opposition. As a result, he was defeated by their support of liberal initiatives (like the legalization of gay marriage) well received by the population. When his prospective was the retirement, he finds himself with a new and much larger opportunity.
So, with all the restrictions due, here is my guess about the foreseeable actions of Pope Francis:
- Inside the Church, a vigorous stance against the concealment of abuse cases. An exigence to “go out” to work with the poor, the young and the marginalized (like drug addicts). I don’t see a near end to priests celibacy but a flexible attitude towards those who opt to become married and are eager to remain linked to the Church in some way.
- In Latin America, an effort to control the rise of populist governments searching for moderate their leftist rhetoric and place the Church as the ultimate moral authority. This is the main task he was chosen to.
- Towards the global economy, an emphasis in the commitment of entrepreneurs to secure the creation of jobs and a harsh condemnation of the deleterious effects of Financial Capitalism.
- Towards the links between the Church and the Italian mafia, not to stick his nose and to left business go as usual. This is a “task” for which he was chosen too.