Pope Francis, newly selected by the cardinals of the Catholic church to be their new leader, has a heritage of staunch support for conservative issues, heralding possible disappointment for those who advocate for a more "modern" church that accepts contemporary social values.
The selection of Francis, former Buenos Aires Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio, was announced Wednesday, only weeks after Pope Benedict XVI resigned, citing his health and the demands of the church.
Gary Glenn, president of the American Family Association of Michigan, said, "We congratulate our many Catholic supporters on the selection of a new pope and are encouraged by his reputation for unwavering commitment to preserving the lives of prenatal children and marriage between one man and one woman. We will stand firmly with him and defend him in that commitment and pray for his success."
Glenn cited a report from National Catholic Register that described Bergoglio as "an unwaveringly orthodox on matters of sexual morality, staunchly opposing abortion, same-sex marriage, and contraception. In 2010 he asserted that gay adoption is a form of discrimination against children, earning a public rebuke from Argentina's President, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner."
Bergoglio is the Argentine-born son of an Italian railway worker. He was described as a compassionate conservative who reportedly came in second during the 2005 balloting that ultimately elected Benedict XVI. The 76-year-old Jesuit is described as prizing simplicity and humility and is thought to plan to encourage priests to do shoe-leather evangelization.
When Argentina adopted same-sex "marriage," three years ago, Bergoglio said "everyone loses" with "gay" marriage and "children need to have the right to be raised and educated by a father and a mother."
According to a report from LifeNews.com, he once called abortion a "death sentence" for unborn.
The report said it was during a 2007 speech when he said, "We aren't in agreement with the death penalty."
But he said in Argentina, the penalty does exist.
"A child conceived by the rape of a mentally ill or retarded woman can be condemned to death," he said.
The report said the comments came during presentation of the Aparecide Document, a statement from the bishops of Latin America.
At that time, he even warned those who only support abortion.
"We should commit ourselves to 'eucharistic coherence,' that is, we should be conscious that people cannot receive holy communion and at the same time act or speak against the commandments, in particular when abortion, euthanasia, and other serious crimes against life and family are facilitated. The responsibility applies particularly to legislators, governors and health professionals."
Jerry Horn, of Priests for Life, released a statement that he was at the Vatican for the announcement.
"A short time ago - as you no doubt know by now! - it happened! White smoke billowed from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel! Before I left for Rome Father Frank took me aside and said: 'Jerry, if you're there when our new Holy Father is elected, I commission you to go to St. Peter's and get his first blessing for our Priests for Life family.' With that task in mind, I rushed to St. Peter's Square the moment the smoke was seen. And together with tens of thousands of smiling, cheering, flag-waving, praying pilgrims ... I received Pope Francis' first blessing!"
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said, he welcomed the "new faith leader."
Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly said, "This will be our 266th pope, and the very first one was appointed by Jesus. So it's a pretty good lineage."
Rush Limbaugh noted, tongue-in-cheek, "My question is, folks: Will the new pope blame Benedict for everything that goes wrong? If it does. Things go wrong. Is it all going to be Benedict's fault?"
His reference was to the hundreds of times the Obama administration in the United States has blamed former President George W. Bush for current problems.
NBC had reported that Bergoglio was among those who were considered possible candidates.
Benedict, 85, stepped down from the high Catholic office in February after saying he did not have the strength needed to continue in the post. The church has been caught up in a scandals ranging from sex abuse to Vatican bank corruption in recent years.
The selection process this time, involving 115 cardinals, was steeped in intrigue because the author who predicted Pope Benedict XVI would be the first pontiff in nearly 600 years to resign is watching through the lens of a medieval prophecy that indicates the man selected will be history's "final pope."
Tom Horn, co-author of the book Petrus Romanus: The Final Pope is Here, told WND he has a list of 10 men among the 115 sequestered in the Sistine Chapel who best fit St. Malachy's "Prophecy of the Popes," said to be based on a prophetic vision of the 112 popes following Pope Celestine II, who died in 1144.
As WND reported, Horn and his co-author, Cris Putnam, predicted in their book Benedict would step down last April, and it turns out that April apparently was when Benedict made the historic decision he announced to the world last month.
"We said if he didn't step down in 2012, he certainly would in 2013," Horn told WND.
Malachy's prophecies culminate with the "final pope," "Peter the Roman," whose reign ends with the destruction of Rome and the judgment of Christ.
Horn said he concluded Benedict would resign rather than die in the papacy based not only on St. Malachy but also on a host of historical and current information.
- "It's a genius move," Marco Politi, a papal biographer said of the choice. "It's a non-Italian, non-European, not a man of the Roman government. It's an opening to the Third World, a moderate. By taking the name Francis, it means a completely new beginning."
- "It's the first pope from Latin America!" said Horacio Pintos, celebrating at the Vatican.