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THE 115 cardinal electors in the Vatican have selected Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina as the 266th pontiff, choosing him to lead the 1.2 billion-strong Roman Catholic Church that has lately been besieged by challenges and intrigues.
Bergoglio – the first to take the name Pope Francis, in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, the 12th century saint who spurned wealth to pursue a life of poverty – is the first pope born outside Europe in almost 1,300 years. He is also the first Jesuit pope.
His papacy was announced by French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran with the Latin words "Habemus papam (We have a pope)."
The new pope, according to a Reuters report, showed a gesture of humility by asking the waiting crowd to bless him before he blessed them. He also chose to take a shuttle bus with other cardinals back to the Vatican residence – in lieu of the papal limousine – where they are staying for an evening meal.
Archbishop Anthony Sablan Apuron said the new pope, a former Archbishop of Buenos Aires, has been known for being humble, choosing to commute via public transportation and to reside in a small apartment instead of a cardinal's palace.
"He cooks for himself. He doesn't have a slew of servants," the Archbishop said during a press conference at the Chancery yesterday.
Gov. Eddie Baza Calvo congratulated the island's Catholic faithful, saying part of the central mission of his administration is the fight against poverty. "Through policy and action, we have sought a better quality of life for all. We engaged in education reform, affordable housing, payment of tax refunds ... all toward reversing social decay."
He added: "Pope Francis’ new papacy is a call for all of us to reach down into the depths of our hearts to do even more for others, to be our brothers and sisters’ keepers, to work harder, and to love stronger. This is the message for our time, a time that is fast changing, with poverty growing and social injustice climbing. This is a season of renewal for us all. For many who have fallen to drugs, or depression, or anger, revenge, or grief, let us be uplifted by this reminder from the Heavens that we can let go from these shackles. In our poverty we can find happiness and strength by putting others before ourselves ... by putting God before us."
For her part, Guam Delegate Madeleine Z. Bordallo said the election of Pope Francis I is a joyous occasion for all Catholics and people of goodwill.
“The selection of the first Latin American and Jesuit pope is historic and speaks to the universality of the Catholic Church. As a cardinal, Pope Francis was known for his humility and his work on behalf of the poor and those suffering and in need. I join the Catholic community on Guam and across the world in celebrating this momentous occasion,” Bordallo said.