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Pope Francis Represents Many Firsts for Vatican

Pope Francis is the first Jesuit and Latin American to lead the Catholic Church.

Newly elected Pope Francis is the first Jesuit pope of the Catholic Church, as well as the first non-European pope to lead the Church since the Middle Ages.

Pope Francis was chosen Wednesday and inaugurated Thursday morning. (Vatican TV)
Pope Francis was chosen Wednesday and inaugurated Thursday morning. (Vatican TV)

Born Jorge Mario Bergoglio in Beunos Aires to Italian immigrants, Pope Francis grew up in a middle class family and pursued a career as a chemical technician before deciding to become a priest.

He took a vow of poverty upon joining the Society of Jesus and, as a cardinal in Buenos Aires, rejected luxuries many of his predecessors enjoyed. He lived in a simple apartment, traveled to and from work by bus, regularly took it upon himself to visit slums throughout the city and prepared his own meals.

"We live in the most unequal part of the world, which has grown the most, yet reduced misery the least," he told bishops in 2007, according to The National Catholic Reporter.

"The unjust distribution of goods persists, creating a situation of social sin that cries out to Heaven and limits the possibilities of a fuller life for so many of our brothers."

Religious leaders spoke out about the breath of fresh air his humility brings to the papacy and the traditional lavishness of the Vatican.

"I think we're going to see a call to gospel simplicity," said Donald Wuerl, an American Cardinal.

"He is, by all accounts, a very gentle but firm, very loving but fearless, very pastoral but caring person. [He is] ideal for the challenges of today."

Pope Francis even picked up his own luggage when he left the house he stayed in during the conclave, then personally thanked each member of the staff, according to a reverend who teaches at a nearby school.

"He greeted them one by one, no rush, the whole staff," said Rev. Pawel Rytel-Andrianek, who witnessed his departure.

The new pope is expected to reshift the focus of the Church with his humble approach to life. He said he hopes to focus on social outreach, not doctrinal battles.

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