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Pope Francis I - Biography

Pope Francis is the head of the Catholic Church

pope francis © Photo: Getty Images
Nicky Morris
TV and film writer
Updated: November 20, 2023
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Pope Francis is the head of the Catholic Church, the bishop of Rome and sovereign of the Vatican City State. He is the first Latin American and the first Jesuit to lead the Roman Catholic Church.

Pope Francis' early life

Jorge Mario Bergoglio was born on 17 December 1936 in Buenos Aires. He is the first Latin American to head the Roman Catholic Church and the only pontiff from outside Europe in modern times. 

The son of a railway worker, he joined the priesthood in 1969. His ordination was followed by studies in Argentina and Germany.

In his youth, Jorge had a lung removed because of an infection.

Pope Francis' and the church 

Made a bishop in 1992, he became Archbishop of Buenos six years later. His sermons emphasised social justice and the importance of helping the poor.

He succeeded Benedict XVI in 2013 when he was named the 266th pope of the Roman Catholic Church, and chose Francis as his papal name in honour of Saint Francis of Assisi, who ministered to those in need. 

His lifestyle reflected those concerns, eschewing the trappings of his position. As Cardinal Bergoglio, he lived in a simple flat in the building of the Archdiocese, next door to the cathedral. When in Rome, he often kept on his black robes, rather than donning the red and purple cardinal's vest he was entitled to, reports the BBC. 

He is seen as orthodox on sexual matters but strong on social justice. Since the early 200s, abuse scandals have torn down the Vatican's reputation, and Pope Francis has passed various measures aimed at holding the institution's hierarchy accountable.

Away from the church, Pope Francis is known to be a supporter of Buenos Aires football team San Lorenzo de Almagro. And in his hometown they celebrated his election with the fervour reserved for their most hard won sporting victories, blaring car horns and crying with joy.

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