Saturday, May 25, 2013

A Brief Introduction to Pope Francis' Background and Beliefs

Although not widely known outside Latin America, Pope Francis has long been well regarded by the hierarchy in the Catholic Church, illustrated by the fact that he was almost elected pope instead of Benedict the XVI. The book gives a brief history of his early life and finding his vocation. The section on his interaction with the dictators in Argentina is particularly useful since that period of his life has come under criticism.

Francis is the first Jesuit pope. Since most people know little about the history of the Jesuits, Escobar includes a chapter on the origins of the order. I didn't realize that there had never been a Jesuit pope. It makes perfect sense when you realize that the rules of the order include the provision that anyone who attains the rank of bishop is no longer under the order's jurisdiction.

Escobar discusses how the conclaves used to elect the pope are structured and gives insight into the two recent conclaves: the first where Benedict the XVI was elected, and the second where Francis became the choice.

I found Part III discussing the challenges Francis faces to be one of the most interesting parts of the book. As a Protestant, I am familiar with some of the more publicized challenges like the pedophilia scandals and the Vatican leaks, but the challenge of drawing lapsed Catholics back to the church is an equally great challenge.

The book ends with a series of quotes by Francis that Escobar believes sum up the pope's beliefs. This book is well worth reading if you are interested in finding out who the new pope is. I'm sure there are, or will shortly be more comprehensive biographies that focus on Catholic doctrine and theology, but for the average reader this is an excellent introduction.

I reviewed this book for Thomas Nelson.