The sixth anniversary of the election of Pope Francis
Mar 12, 2019
Today, March 13, marks the sixth anniversary of the election of Buenos Aires Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as pope. It was a happy day greeting this relatively unknown cardinal, learning he took the name Francis and hailing him as the successor to Peter.
Not only the election of Pope Francis, but also the days preceding it were indeed historic times for the Church. Pope Benedict XVI resigned the month before. He was the first pope to step down since Pope Gregory XII in 1415.
Still reeling from the fact that no pope had resigned in the past 600 years, the world watched as history as made by the 115 voting members of the College of Cardinals at the end of the first full day of the papal conclave.
We saw the first Jesuit and the first Latin American to be elected pope. We saw the first non-European to serve as pope since Pope Gregory III, a Syrian who served as pope in the eighth century, and we had our first pope named Francis.
Here in the Archdiocese of Washington, we rejoiced and a celebratory Mass was offered at the Cathedral of the St. Matthew the Apostle.
When he was introduced to the world, just after his election as the 266th pope and the 265th successor of Peter, Pope Francis asked the faithful to pray for Pope Benedict and then asked for prayers for himself. He also prayed “for the whole world that there be a great brotherhood” and reminded the faithful that we are all called to “brotherhood, love and trust.”
Meeting the press for the first time after his election, he explained why he chose to name himself after the great saint from Assisi. St. Francis, the new pope said, “is the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and safeguards creation.”
“How I would like a Church that is poor and that is for the poor,” the new pontiff added, referring to St. Francis’s rejection of the wealth into which he was born and his embracing a life of poverty. Pope Francis visited Assisi on the first feast day of his patron after being elected pope.
The pope’s 2015 encyclical on the environment Laudato Si' ("Praise Be to You") takes its name from the paean of St. Francis: “Laudato si’ mi’ Signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord.”
It is the opening line from the saint’s “Canticle of the Sun” in which he thanks God for "Brother Sun," "Sister Moon," "our sister, Mother Earth," "Brother Fire," "Sister Water" and the rest of creation.
Pope Francis acknowledged in the encyclical that it was written after “turning to that attractive and compelling figure, whose name I took as my guide and inspiration when I was elected Bishop of Rome.”
The same year as he issued his Laudato Si' encyclical, Pope Francis visited the United States. It was with great joy and excitement that the faithful of our Archdiocese of Washington greeted their pope.
During his visit here, Pope Francis again made history – he was the first pope to address a joint meeting of Congress and the first pope to canonize a saint on American soil, St. Junipero Serra.
He also held a meeting with then-President Obama, prayed and met with the U.S. bishops, visited the headquarters of Catholic Charities, and met with clients served by a meal program there.
Since his election as pontiff, Francis has visited nearly 40 countries.
Today, we rejoice and give thanks to God for our pope, and we offer prayers for Francis and his ministry. Ad multo annos!