Originally published 03/21/2013
For Father Gustavo Carrara, a day's work might mean finding someone to accompany a pregnant drug addict to the hospital, seeking housing for a homeless orphan, or consoling a woman whose husband was killed in a narco-fueled gunfight. Carrara runs the Saint Mary Mother of the People parish, located inside Villa 1-11-14, one of Buenos Aires' largest and most dangerous slums. He was recruited personally to serve there by Pope Francis I, who was then Archbishop of Buenos Aires."Padre Francis, who was then Padre Bergoglio, came to me as I was working as a deacon elsewhere and asked me to work as a priest in one of the villas," explains Carrara. He knew that the job would not be easy. Far from the Buenos Aires of postcards, with its leafy avenues, sultry tango and Francophile architecture, the city's slums, or villas miserias, are so savage that even ambulances and police have refused to enter. Still, Carrara claims, "I did not hesitate."...
Originally published 03/20/2013
Pope Francis at the Vatican. Credit: Flickr/mazur.Pope Francis, the former Cardinal Bergoglio of Argentina, was installed on the feast day of St. Joseph as the 266th pope over the Holy Roman Catholic Church. For a religious historian like myself, his appointment has been a dizzying number of firsts: the first Jesuit to become pope, the first pope in the modern era to succeed a pope, Benedict XVI, who is still alive, the first pope from Latin America, and the first to take the name of Francis.While all of these firsts are important, they also must pass through the prism of the Jesuits' history, the Catholic Church’s history in Latin America, and by Bergogolio’s own history in Argentina during the Dirty War. While Pope Francis’s ascension to the petrine throne may signal some change in the manner in which the papacy is lived out in front of the world, will it engender real, substantive changes in the Catholic Church, and its worldwide following?