On this day in 2013, a papal conclave elected Jorge Mario Bergoglioto to succeed Pope Benedict XVI as the 266th pope of the Catholic Church. He was the first pope from the Americas, the first from the Southern Hemisphere, the first Jesuit, and the first to choose the name Francesco — Pope Francis — in honor of St. Francis of Assisi (1181 – 1226). He was named Person of the Year by Time magazine in 2013 and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize the following year.

Since his election, Pope Francis has delivered talks, writings, and encyclicals that have shaken the Catholic Church and provoked discussion among religious people and secularists of all stripes. He believes we are at a turning point in human history where we must ditch the widespread economic inequality in our society, the scandal of hunger, and the exploitation of the environment. These developments are the foundations of the "culture of waste" which has now become not only discarding of food but also the shameful treatment of the environment.

Pope Francis heralds the possibility that women and men of good will can contribute to the dream of "an ecological citizenship," caring for nature and all beings through love. His own simple lifestyle in comparison to the way of life of his predecessors models this vision; for instance, he lives in the Domus Sanctae Marthae guest house at the Vatican rather than the Apostolic Palace. He leads by example to call people to a prophetic and contemplative lifestyle, reconciliation, hope, and a spirit of welcome.

In his public life, Pope Francis takes questions from people from all walks of life, responding to farmers and workers, refugees, children and the elderly, prison inmates and those who live in shantytowns. Wim Wenders, director of the documentary film Pope Francis — A Man of His Word, describes Pope Francis as someone who "literally has his arms wide open for everyone."

To Name This Day . . .


Here are a few of the memorable things that Pope Francis said in Pope Francis — A Man of His Word. Choose one of these quotes to be your guiding principle today.

"God's love is the same for each and every person. No matter what your religion, even for an atheist, it's the same love."

"If you ask me who is the poorest of the poorest of the poor, I would say Mother Earth. We have plundered her. We have abused her."

Speaking to prisoners: "Your weariness and your wounds are also the wounds of an entire society."

"Differences scare us, because they make us grow."

"We have so much to do — and we must do it together."

Spiritual Practices

"Tenderness is not weakness. It is strength!" Pope Francis exclaims in Wenders' documentary. "Tenderness makes us use our eyes to see the other, our ears to hear the other, to listen to the cries of the children, the poor, those who are afraid of the future. To also listen to the silent cry of our common home, our sick and polluted Earth."

Today, find a way to show tenderness to someone: a family member, a friend, someone you've newly met, someone far away, an animal, a plant. You may want to use Pope Francis' description above for guidance. Tenderness often takes the form of listening to others' cries and fears, a listening which extends to the needs of our Earth herself. Your own needs deserve your tenderness, too.