Habemus Papam Franciscum: All your Pope Francis questions answered!

Jorge Mario Bergoglio

When white smoke emerged from the Vatican chimneys to signal the selection of a new Pope, loud cheers went out, church bells all around Italy sang out a joyous tune and there was palpable excitement on the streets.

Those who did not rush to St. Peter’s Square for live action all tuned into the TV or streamed live on computers in an anxious wait to see who it was that had would emerge from behind the papal curtains…

Habemus Papam Franciscum!

What does ‘Habemus Papam Franciscum’ mean?

‘Habemus Papam’ is how the new pope is announced, meaning, “We have a Pope!” It is said (in Latin) by the top Cardinal Deacon (official title, ‘Cardinal Protodeacon’). The Papal name of the Pope is then said in Latin, hence ‘Habemus Papam Franciscum’ – we have a Pope Francis!

The new Pope then steps out onto the balcony on St. Peter’s Basilica to give his first official blessing, although in this case, Pope Francis asked the people to pray for him before performing his first official act as Pope.

So who is the new Pope?

Pope Francis – who yesterday went by the more pedestrian name of Jorge Mario Bergoglio – was born in Buenos Aires to a family of Italian migrants. Pope Francis is the first Latin-American Pope, and the first Pope to hail from a non-European nation since Syrian Pope Gregory III, who reigned as Pope from 731 to 741.

At the age of 21, after completing studies to be a chemical technician, Jorge Bergoglio decided to become a priest and entered into Jesuit seminary. He officially became a priest in 1969. In 1998 he was elected Archbishop of Buenos Aires before being made Cardinal in 2001.

Throughout this time he has studied philosophy, undertook doctoral studies in Germany and has even taught literature and psychology in various colleges.

Why the name ‘Francis’?

There was initially talk that the name Francis was in honour of Francis Xavier – a fellow Jesuit from the 1500s. However, the name Francis is in honour of Saint Francis of Assisi, the friar and later Saint who founded the Franciscan Order. St. Francis is known as a humble man who preached the word of Jesus and dedicated himself to a life of poverty. Pope Francis is the first Pope to take on the name ‘Francis’, considered a fitting moniker to those who know Jorge Mario Bergoglio as a humble man, who even cooks his own meals.

Is it Pope Francis or Pope Francis I?

For now, the new Pontiff will be referred to as Pope Francis, until and if such a time whereby there is a second Pope Francis. So far however, they are only averaging one ever 2 millennia or so.

What’s a Jesuit?

Pope Francis is the first Jesuit to become a Pope. The Jesuit Order was based on a group formed in 1534, which even included Francis Xavier. It became an official religious order 6 years later. Jesuits travel to all parts of the globe on their missions to evangelise. Around the world, they have founded schools and universities as well as doing much work for the sick, poor and under-privileged. They are known for entering into dangerous situations to spread the word and for this consider themselves religious warriors.

The good, the bad, the ugly…and the dirty:

So, where does Pope Francis stand on major world issues?

The good news is that Pope Francis has a history of having actively fought against ‘unjust distribution of goods’ in the world, saying that “extreme poverty and unjust economic structures that cause great inequalities” which violate basic human rights.

He has also done a lot against abuse of children and lack of care for the elderly, whilst also having taken in the poor and even helped people flee Argentina for safety reasons.

The bad news for many may well be his stance on abortion and euthanasia, which he considers ‘ideological malfeasance’ and ‘abominable crimes’. He falls back on ‘Eucharistic coherence’ when it comes to contraception. He has spoken out against people who commit such ‘sins’ being unworthy of receiving the Eucharist. Pope Francis once even angered Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner with his stance against gay marriage, as he considers homosexual actions to be ‘immoral’ and same-sex partnerships being a threat to “the survival of the family: father, mother and children.”

As to the ugly, there was a criminal complaint against the now-Pope Francis claiming he had been involved in kidnapping of Jesuit priests who were then tortured during the Dirty War. The claims against Bergoglio were that he did not offer protection to the Jesuits who were sent on a mission. However, these claims have of course been officially denied by Pope Francis and others.

What is the Pope’s official Twitter handle?

Once everyone had established who the Pope was, the next question seemed to be which Twitter account he would be using! Whilst many Fake Papal Twitter accounts sprung up almost immediately, the first official Tweet after the announcement of the new Pope was on the @Pontifex handle previously utilised during the time of his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI. First Tweet: HABEMUS PAPAM FRANCISCUM.

What is the Pope’s Motto:

“With mercy and choosing” – or for those of us who speak Latin, Miserando atque eligendo.

Latin? Why would I speak Latin?

If you don’t speak – or don’t remember much of your schooling in – Latin, you may well want to brush up on your lingua latīna, as Pope Francis (when he was still Cardinal Bergoglio) was one of the first to take up Pope Benedict’s call for mass to be given in the traditional Latin.

In case you’re not too fluent in latino, you can also comunicate with Pope Francis in Italian, French or German, or in his native Spanish.

How do you address Pope Francis?

When referring to the Pope, one would say ‘His Holiness’. ‘Holy Father’ is also appropriate. When speaking to the Pope, you would address him as ‘Your Holiness’.

And what’s this about the Pope’s lungs?

Make that lung – singular. As a teenager, Bergoglio suffered from an infection and had a lung removed as a result.

Jorge Mario Bergoglio


Guided tours of the Vatican and St. Peters are available through Artviva, as are small-group Rome tours.

Artviva: experts in Florence, Tuscany, Cinque Terre, Venice, Rome and beyond.

You may also like