JORGE MARIO BERGOGLIO:
Francis, Pope of a New World
by Andrea Tornielli
(Ignatius Press, 2013, hardback, 175pp, $40.00, ISBN: 978-1-58617-852-9. Available from Freedom Publishing)
Francis, Pope of a New World is an attractively produced biography of the new pontiff who has made such a striking presence on the world stage and within the Catholic Church.
"Francis, rebuild my Church!" That is how St Francis of Assisi heard the call of Jesus Christ. It is also how Jorge Mario Bergoglio, a Jesuit and Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires, at the age of 76, accepted his election to the papacy with the choice of a name that no other pope has ever chosen. And he is the first pontiff to hail from the Americas.
In shaping the words, the ideas and the personal recollections of Pope Francis, the writer, Andrea Tornielli, a highly regarded Vatican observer, reveals the engaging personality of this man of God, so gentle and so humble.
Jorge Bergoglio, the son of Italian immigrants to Argentina, has made radically following Christ by the way of non-violence the pillar of his pastoral ministry; this way, too, in a country, continually tormented by social and economic inequalities and, at times, by political corruption on an industrial scale.
The priest, bishop and cardinal was a humble pastor of one of the world's largest archdioceses, who travelled to his cathedral office by bus, talked easily with ordinary people and lived simply.
The biography deals with its material chronologically from Jorge Bergoglio's childhood and teenage years, his entry to the Jesuits, his years as a young priest and as Novice Master and Jesuit Provincial in Argentina. In due course Father Bergoglio was ordained an auxiliary bishop in Buenos Aires and then that city's archbishop.
The two major controversies which have circulated around Cardinal Bergoglio are mentioned, but are not explored in detail: his stance towards liberation theology and his relations with the military dictatorship in his country.
He was always opposed to the Marxist thrust of one strand of liberation theology and was cautious and sophisticated in dealing with Argentina's military rulers in behind the scenes negotiations. As Cardinal Pell said, "Argentina was a tough school for the Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires!"
Andrea Tornielli has written numerous books including Pius XII, the Pope of the Jews; The Choice of Martini; Pope Luciani: the Smile of a Saint; The Pope Who Saved the Jews; Benedict XVI, Guardian of the Faith; The Secret of Padre Pio and Karol Wojtyla and The Attack on Ratzinger (with Paolo Rodari)
Although lacking illustrations, this straightforward, clear and reasonably short biography of Pope Francis will add to Tornielli's reputation.