He now heads a flock of 1.2 billion, 500 million of whom are from Latin America ( perhaps this was a crucial point of his winning the vote ( it took five ballots). He is 76 years old and face a daunting task with the multitude of problems facing the Catholic church, from sexual molestation of children to banking corruption to allegations of a "gay mafia" in the Roman curia to dwindling attendance and fewer and fewer young people entering the priesthood and nunnery, to gay and abortion rights, clerical celibacy and female priests.He is the 266th pope.
He brings with him some "baggage", questions of his silence during the "dirty wars", when 13,000 to 30,000 people disappeared, during the rule of the military junta, with which the Catholic leadership, was very close. He was also silent when many priests were rounded up between 1976-1983. "Evil exists and flourish, when people say and do nothing" and he was one of those who did not speak out and tens of thousands suffered, imprisoned, killed (their newly born children taken away, some adopted by members of the military) and disappeared , ask Ls Abuelas de la Playa", still looking and mourning for their children and grand children. He was no Oscar Romero, who stood up, defied the regime in El Salvado and was murdered. During this time he rose quickly through the ranks of the depleted clergy, becoming Arch bishop of Buenos Aires in 1998, and a Cardinal in 2001.
Finally, in Oct. 2012, he led Argentina's bishops in issuing a collective apology for the church's failure to protect its followers. Too little, too late for the thousands but good for him.
He is very conservative, opposed to the abortion of rape victims and argued that gay adoptions discriminated against children. This has caused him to be at odds with Argentina's government social agenda, which he campaigned against, but her has also accused fellow church leaders of hypocrisy, that they have forgotten that Jesus bathed lepers and ate with prostitutes, " Jesus teaches us another way. Go out and share your testimony, go out and interact with your brothers, go out and share, go out and ask. Become the Word in body as well as spirit", he told Argentina's priests last year, promoting his social outreach programme.