Pope Francis I: World greets new 'humble' pontiff - Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - 15 March 2013

So, finally, white smoke appeared from the Sistine Chapel chimney yesterday evening and the world’s estimated 1.2 billion Catholics had a new Pope.

Pope Francis I: World greets new 'humble' pontiff

Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - 15 March 2013

By Irena Barker

When the white smoke billowed from the Sistine Chapel chimney on Wednesday the world's estimated 1.2 billion Catholics knew they had a new Pope.

Pope Francis I, until minutes earlier plain old Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, stepped out onto the balcony of the Vatican in Rome to cheering crowds.

In the days since, the world has pored over the life story and beliefs of new pontiff, looking for signs of how he may influence the church in the coming years.

It was already well known that the 76-year-old has an austere, pious ­lifestyle. In his former life as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he shunned the palace he was entitled to in favour of a small apartment, taking the bus to get around the city, cooking his own meals and flying economy class. With these austere tastes, he is perhaps an ideal “holy father” for recessionary times.

In the days that followed his elevation there was more evidence of his piety. He insisted on paying a hotel bill he had received while staying in Rome last weekend, and also rejected the use of the Pope’s official limousine.

Hailing from Argentina, Francis I is the first Pope from outside of Europe for more than 1,000 years: more than 40 per cent of all Catholics live in South America, so this is a move that recognises the region's dominance.

But it is his Argentinian background that has proved the biggest controversy of his reign so far, with observers asking questions about his stance during the country’s vicious military dictatorship from 1976-1983.

Francis is the first ever Jesuit priest, an order that is known for its involvement in education. Pope Francis I studied chemistry before deciding to become a priest, and went on to teach literature and psychology at a high school in Argentina. He was ordained in 1969, aged 32.

His views on abortion, euthanasia and homosexuality are all conservative, and commentators have said there are unlikely to be any dramatic shifts during his papacy. When Argentina became the first Latin American country to legalise gay marriage in 2010, he led a high-profile campaign against it.

The head of the Catholic Church is usually expected to demonstrate some degree of showmanship ­ Pope Benedict XVI had a fondness for wearing the red papal shoes, for example.


  • Why do you think the election of a new Pope interests Catholics and non-Catholics alike?
  • Pope Francis is "the first non-European Pope for more than a millenium". Why is this significant?
  • Do you believe that religion still has a place in today's society? Explain your answer.
  • In your opinion, which is more important: progression or tradition?

Resources for you

Name that Pope: Game and PowerPoint presentation

  • Teach your pupils about some notable popes throughout history with this exclusive TES resource.

Pope for a Day

  • A lesson from Caford in which young people explore how it feels to be leader of a billion Catholics world-wide, as well as some of the challenges faced by members of the global church.

How a Pope is elected

  • This PowerPoint explains process of electing a new Pope. It covers the role of the Pope, the Vatican City and includes details on the last four people to be elected the Pope.

The Catholic Church

  • Lessons plans and activities to help pupils find out about the role of the Catholic Church, its history, hierarchy and places of worship.

Further news resources

First News front page

  • Help your pupils understand the features of the front page of a newspaper.

Write all about it

  • Get students creating their own news report with this step-by-step guide.

What is the News?

  • A sociological and media perspective on what makes an event 'newsworthy'.

On the box

  • Help pupils to write their own TV news broadcast with this handy PowerPoint.

Structuring stories

  • A scheme of work to help students structure news stories.

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