Illustrated by the cover story of TIME magazine, hundreds of cardinals adorned with traditional red garb gathered in the square of Vatican City, partaking in the parade before entering the Sistine Chapel to make a decision which would affect the 1.2 billion Catholics in the world: choosing a new pope. With the unexpected retirement of Pope Benedict XVI, Catholics across the world waited anxiously for the selection of their new Holy Father, the celebrated mediator between God and the Church. The voluntary retirement of Benedict, only preceded in 1415 by Pope Gregory XII during the Western Schism, was prompted by his old age and his belief of his inability to fully handle the rapid changes within the church due to his aging health and mind according to first-hand sources. With a retirement on the 28th of February, the conclave, coming from a Latin word meaning “key”, signifying the locked nature within the Chapel, proceeded as the ritualistic nature of the ceremony incorporates a hypnotic Gregorian litany during which the cardinals invoke the guidance of the saints and contemplate upon the fresco of Michaengelo’s “The Last Judgement”, as a reminder of prospect of the eternal damnation after death
White smoke emitted above the chapel announced the choosing of a new pope, formerly known as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, who is the first pope from the Americas and the first Jesuit pope. Taking on the name, Francis, in honor of the patron of Italy and a champion of the poor, St. Francis of Assisi, Pope Francis I entered the Church’s continuing Year of Faith at a critical time to, as the cardinals of the conclave had hoped, to have the Church return to its people. Known for walking to the barracas, the neighborhoods of the less fortunate of Buenos Aires, and blessing the children and its inhabitants, Bergologi will come to symbolize not only social justice but a return to the values which the Church was founded upon: forgiveness, repentance and championing the poor.