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An astounding life of prayerfulness, humility

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POSTED March 14, 2013 1:46 a.m.

The Holy Spirit has spoken.

The 266th pope of the Roman Catholic Church is the cardinal from Argentina, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who took on the name of Pope Francis I in honor of St. Francis of Assissi. Although it may be far-fetched, the Holy Father who ascended to the seat of St. Peter on Wednesday could have been honoring his Italian roots, too. His parents were Italian immigrants. His father, Mario Jose Bergoglio, was a railway worker, and his mother, Regina Maria Sivori, was a housewife.

As with anything new, and like the 1.18 billions of Catholics as well as non-Catholics throughout the world, I was anxious to find out who would be selected to become the new Holy Father. And once that relatively short wait was over, and the new pope was revealed, I too was eager to know more about the person who was chosen by divine providence to be the spiritual leader of the Catholic world. And what I learned so far makes me feel blessed and privileged to be alive during this historic time for the church, and for the whole world.

Pope Francis I is the first since Pope Lando in 913 to take a papal name that has never been used by any of his predecessors.

He is the first from South America, the Americas, or anywhere in the Western Hemisphere to ascend to the seat of St. Peter.

He is the first non-European pope in 1,272 years. Syrian-born Pope Gregory III served from 731-741.

He is the first Jesuit to be elected Pope.

He was made a cardinal in 2001 by Blessed Pope John Paul II.

He received a master’s degree in chemistry from the University of Buenos Aires but later decided to pursue a spiritual pathway.

I find the other revelations I learned about the Holy Father truly humbling and worthy of emulation, no matter one’s faith following happens to be.

He has lived with only one lung since he was a teen-ager, having lost the other due to an infection that was discovered while he was serving in the military.

But what I find one of the most astounding things about him is his Christ-like humility and simplicity wrapped around his prayerfulness. Rather than take up residence in a palatial bishop’s residents, he chose to live in a small apartment. And rather than take full advantage of the luxury and convenience of a chauffeured limousine which he was entitled to as bishop, he took to public transportation. He also reportedly cooks his own meals, too.

And following Christ’s mandate to love, when he visited a hospice in 2001, he washed and kissed the feet of a dozen AIDS patients.

In a speech he gave last year, he accused “fellow church officials of hypocrisy for forgetting that Jesus Christ bathed lepers and ate with prostitutes.”

I’m sure all of the above will be rehashed again and again in the next several days and months, but I think the constant reminder of how to live and follow the life of Christ is never a waste of time, no matter one’s gender, race, ethnicity, or faith affiliation.

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