Vincenzo Pinto/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images, via the New York TimesBy now most of my readers will already have heard the news: the College of Cardinals has elected a new pope. The New York Times reports on the cardinals’ choice (WebCite cached article):

With a puff of white smoke from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel and to the cheers of thousands of rain-soaked faithful, a gathering of Catholic cardinals picked a new pope from among their midst on Wednesday — choosing the cardinal from Argentina, the first South American to lead the church.

The new pope, Jorge Mario Bergoglio (pronounced Ber-GOAL-io), will be called Francis, the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. He is also the first non-European pope in more than 1,200 years and the first member of the Jesuit order to lead the church.

A lot of folks will speculate as to what it means that a non-European was elected Pope, and that the new Pope named himself for St Francis of Assisi. It’s true that Francis is the first “New World” pope, and it’s also true that St Francis had — like Jesus himself — preached the virtue of poverty. But don’t be deceived. The Roman Catholic Church is a colossal juggernaut that works in its own way, moves at its own pace, and in many ways governs itself. It almost doesn’t matter who heads the Holy See. It’s the bishops who, collectively, run the Church, and they’ll continue to do so just as they always have. Even if he’d wanted to — and I’m positive he doesn’t — Pope Francis can’t “change” the Church in any meaningful way … because it can’t be changed.

Photo credit: Vincenzo Pinto/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images, via the New York Times.

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