Catholic church elects new pope after Benedict's shock resignation

20 December 2013 4:00 PM

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Pope Benedict XVI announced his retirement as the holy leader of the Catholic Church on February 11, 2013 citing poor health.

The move took the world by surprise, particularly because a pope is expected to fulfill the role until their death.

Benedict officially ended his reign on February 28, resolving to spend the rest of his life serving the church "through a life dedicated to prayer".

He told his cardinals in a reportedly calm manner, and apparently consulted a very small number of people before making the decision.

Benedict moved into the Mater Ecclesiae monastery in the Vatican Gardens near St Peter's Basilica to spend his time reflecting on his faith in knowledge.

The official search for the next pope began on March 12, with two main contenders in line for the papacy; Angelo Scola of Italy and Marc Ouellet of Canada, while Argentinian Jorge Bergoglio was considered an outsider for the job.

The 117 voting cardinals descended on Rome, where they began the process of electing the next pope. It was reported that Scola was the early leader in the first voting rounds, but Bergoglio became a frontrunner after Ouellet threw his support behind the Argentinian.

All up it took five ballots before the cardinals settled on Bergoglio as the new pope.

Born in Buenos Aires on 17 December 1936, Jorge Bergoglio is the son of Italian parents. He entered the seminary as a novice in 1958 and rose up the ranks to priest in 1969.

Bergoglio came under fire for his role in Argentina’s “dirty war”, with the church apologizing for failing to protect people from the Junta.

It took him 23 years to become a bishop, earning the title of Titular Bishop of Auca in 1992. He became the Metropolitan Archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1998 when his predecessor died.

Pope John Paul II anointed him as a cardinal on 21 February, 2001. In 2005, Bergoglio was in the running to become the successor to John Paul II, but ultimately offered his support for Benedict to prevent any further delay in the election of the new pope.

Bergoglio took the name Francis, the first pope to do so, because of his dedication to helping the poor and needy.

Pope Francis has been known for his austerity, catching public transport on his visits to the Vatican City and living a modest lifestyle, and he carried that on in his reign as Catholic leader.

He chose not to take the papal car back to his residences on his election, but instead joined fellow cardinals in a minibus.

Then Prime Minister Julia Gillard hailed the ascension of Pope Francis as a great day for Australian Catholics.

"The election of a pope from the 'new world' is an occasion of genuinely historic proportions," she said.

"[It’s] an exciting day for Australian Catholics and perhaps especially for Australians of Argentinian descent."


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