Pope Francis



Pope Francis has a favorability rating that is among the highest in modern papal history.  Join Active Minds as we seek to understand why Catholics and much of the non-Catholic world find Pope Francis so appealing.  We will cover his background as the first Pope from the Americas, his impact so far since becoming Pope in 2013, and what the future may hold for the Catholic Church under his leadership.

Key Lecture Points

  • In 2013, Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina became the first Pope from the Americas.  Two key elements of his story are key.  By taking the name Pope Francis, the new Pope indicated his affinity for the story of St. Francis of Assisi and the Franciscan Order that followed him.  Additionally, Pope Francis is the first Jesuit to lead Roman Catholicism.  The Jesuit traditions of poverty and reform inform the papacy of Francis.
  • Bergoglio was born in Buenos Aires in 1936, the son of Italian immigrants.  He entered the Society of Jesus when he was 21 years old and was ordained in 1969 at the age of 32.  Francis lived in an Argentina under a military dictatorship from 1976 to 1983.  The military regime engaged in widespread kidnappings, torture and murder of Argentines they suspected of rebellion and subversion.   For the most part the Catholic Church remained mute and therefore many Argentines still hold the Church complicit in the abuses of the military government.  Across Latin America, Liberation Theology priests became involved in politics, believing the Church had a duty to act to bring about social change.  During this time Bergoglio was head of the Jesuits in Argentina.  He did not support Liberation Theology and urged his priests to remain politically neutral.
  • After ascending to the Papacy, Francis quickly captured the world’s affection with his humility, his simple lifestyle and his message of mercy and forgiveness, especially to those on the margins.  He has spoken out on environmental concerns and the misuse of political and economic power.  He has acknowledged financial mismanagement within the church and the sexual abuse problem.  The heart of his papacy is social justice and reform.  He has also engaged in political diplomacy, brokering the normalization of relations between the US and Cuba.

Exploration Questions

  • What are the key influences that have shaped Pope Francis?
  • Compare Pope Francis to past Popes.   What are some differences and similarities?

Reflective Questions

  • Do you think the Pope has a duty to speak out on social issues like the environment or is that outside his role as a religious leader?  Why?  Why not?
  • Do you think the changes Pope Francis is making will be good for the church?  Why?  Why not?

More to Explore

Books for Further Reading

  • Pope Francis, Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home. Our Sunday Visitor, 2015.  The Pope’s encyclical on mankind’s responsibility to care for God’s creation.
    Click here to order
  • Vallely, Paul.  Pope Francis: The Struggle for the Soul of Catholicism.  Bloomsbury USA, 2015.  496 pages.  The author describes Pope Francis’ life and his journey to the papacy as well as the changes he has made in his first years as Pope and their impact on the Church and its followers.
    Click here to order