Atlantic Cities

A Public Transit Pope: Francis Rode Buses Instead of Limos Through Buenos Aires

A Public Transit Pope: Francis Rode Buses Instead of Limos Through Buenos Aires
Reuters

We don't know much yet about how Jorge Mario Bergoglio will lead the Catholic Church. But the new Pope's biography speaks to Bergoglio's urban past.

Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, was born in Buenos Aires, one of five children to an Italian mother. He was ordained in December 1969 as a Jesuit (traditionally, the most learned and forward-thinking order), and began serving as priest in Argentina in 1973. He moved to Germany to complete his doctorate, then returned to the Argentine city of Cordoba. He was named Archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1998.

He is celebrated for his humility, and has eschewed worldly possessions. He chose to live in his own small apartment instead of the Cardinal's (more opulent) residence in Buenos Aires. And he doesn't take chauffeured limousines, instead traveling around Buenos Aires by bus. As the National Catholic Reporter writes:

Back in 2005, Bergoglio drew high marks as an accomplished intellectual, having studied theology in Germany. His leading role during the Argentine economic crisis burnished his reputation as a voice of conscience, and made him a potent symbol of the costs globalization can impose on the world’s poor.

Bergoglio’s reputation for personal simplicity also exercised an undeniable appeal – a Prince of the Church who chose to live in a simple apartment rather than the archbishop’s palace, who gave up his chauffeured limousine in favor of taking the bus to work, and who cooked his own meals.

At his unveiling this afternoon, he did not wear the Pope's traditional jeweled cross, instead opting for his own simple insignia. As his biographer wrote:

"It's a very curious thing: When bishops meet, he always wants to sit in the back rows," Rubin said. "This sense of humility is very well seen in Rome."

He is the first non-European Pope in over 1,000 years. He will, of course, not be taking public transit through Vatican City.

Amanda Erickson is a senior associate editor at The Atlantic Cities. All posts »

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