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The new pontiff: Pope Francis

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Wednesday, March 13, 2013, 4:48 p.m.

Out of 115 came one.

The College of Cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church on Wednesday elected, on the fifth ballot, Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as the new “supreme pontiff.”

The church's new “vicar of Christ,” 76, chose Francis as his papal name, after St. Francis of Assisi, which evokes, yes, poverty, humility and simplicity but also rebirth. And that more than suggests that reform-minded cardinals prevailed in the conclave and found the change agent, albeit a humble one, whom they had sought.

The selection of the new pontiff, the archbishop of Buenos Aires, the first to take the name of Francis and the first Jesuit and non-European pope since the first, Peter, is a reflection of the Catholic Church's shift to a Latin American center. And he certainly has his work cut out for himself.

Indeed, Francis must continue to address the horrible pedophilia scandal that has rocked the church for far too long (a scandal, by the way, that never befell the Argentine church). And he must also address the turmoil and scandals within the Roman curia — the administration of the church, “The Knot,” as some call it — that have left their taint in some of the highest circles of the Holy See.

The greatest challenge for Pope Francis, however, is the eternal one for Catholicism and common to every pope since Peter — how to keep Catholic principles not only practiced but relevant in a society of ever and often rapidly changing mores and folkways.

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