The Roman College of Cardinals on Monday evening elected Jorge Bergoglio, the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, as its new Pope. Bergoglio, who has taken the name Francis I for his office, is the first Pope to be chosen from outside of Europe.
South America has the world's largest population of Catholics, and Spanish is the most widely used language in the Church. Nevertheless, commentators said that the choice of Bergoglio was “unusual” because of his age. Bergoglio is 76, and it was expected that a younger man would be chosen.
However, Bergoglio has the reputation of a reformer, and pundits said that the choice of Bergoglio was a shrewd one on the part of the Cardinals, as the Church now has a symbol that could reconnect with masses of Catholics who have been disillusioned by the scandals in the Catholic Church, such as the large numbers of pedophile charges against priests, as well as the Church's unpopular positions on a number of personal issues.
Bergoglio is said to have had good relations with Argentinian Jews. He was praised by local and U.S. Jewish community leaders for his response to the 1994 bombing of the Argentine Jewish Mutual Association. In 2005, Bergoglio signed a joint statement against terrorism together with Jose Adaszko of the Israel Mutual Association of Argentina, and Omar Helal Massud of the Islamic Center, with an emphasis on preventing attacks such as the 1994 bombing.