Cardinal Jorge M. Bergoglio’s election as Pope Francis I did not surprise some Adventists. The noted Seventh-day Adventist theologian Samuele Bacchiocchi, who died in 2008, had mentioned the Jesuit university administrator from Argentina as a possible Pope in 2005.
Bergoglio “is a soft-spoken intellectual, and a respected theological and philosophical thinker,” Bacchiocchi wrote at the time. Both were of Italian ancestry and products of Catholic academic institutions, although Adventist Today has not found any evidence that they ever met. “If Bergoglio were to be elected Pope, his simplicity and humility would impress the world. For example, in Argentina people admire the fact that he takes public transportation rather than a chauffer-driven limousine.”
Francis I is the first pope from Latin America and the southern hemisphere, and the first Jesuit to become pope. “The idea of a Jesuit Pope is not readily acceptable,” Bacchiocchi wrote in 2005 “because Jesuits are not supposed to receive ecclesiastical honors [and] have a troublesome history of insubordination to papal authority.” Surprisingly, Bacchiocchi made no reference to the many negative things that Adventist writers and preachers have had to say about Jesuits over the years.
A number of journalists in the secular news media referred to Bergoglio as unexpected today, pointing out that he is 76 and was not mentioned in published lists of possible popes in recent weeks. But Bacchocchi saw him as a possibility in 2005 and Radio Christiandad reported in June 2006 that he was “according to many reports, runner-up in the last conclave.”
Bergoglio is aligned with the very conservative wing of the Catholic faith and has been accused of silence about, if not complicity with disappearances, torture and atrocities during Argentina’s anti-communist “dirty war.” In some ways he embodies the worst fears of some Adventists about the Catholic hierarchy. It is predictable that Email bulletins will soon be circulating that identify this papal election as a sign that end-time prophecy is being fulfilled.
Equally important in this event is the emergence of Latino leadership in a worldwide religion. That is also a “sign of the times” for the Adventist Church. “It may hint at surprises to come at major occasions in the Adventist Church over the next three years,” a retired church administrator told Adventist Today.
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