It is a measure of the importance of the job that the world was so absorbed with how the Roman Catholic Church went about the choice, and who it eventually selected, as its new head.
Except, that with about 1.2 billion adherents, the Catholic Church is no ordinary organisation. Its membership is a staggering 17 per cent of the world's population. Who is at its helm, and how he exerts whatever influence he has over this significant chunk of humanity, is important.
The election by fellow cardinals of the Argentine, Jorge Bergoglio, as the new Pope is, and will be, scrutinised for its significance and what it says about the future of the Church. So far, the message is mixed, but on balance, more positive than not.
That the Pope, who has taken the name Francis, is from Argentina, as the first non-European to have the job in nearly 1,300 years since Gregory II in 731, is of symbolic significance, suggesting a bridging of the Old World and the New World and the breaking of the European hegemony over the papacy. It perhaps says something, too, that Francis is a Jesuit, an order whose practical work in education and with the poor is well known in Jamaica.
But more important than these symbols are the character of the man himself and the attributes, or lack thereof, that he will bring to the job. In this regard, relatively little is known about Pope Francis, except, perhaps, within Vatican circles and his native Argentina, where he was Bishop of Buenos Aires.
He is a man reported to prefer the simple life. In Buenos Aires, he eschewed the tastier lodges of the bishopric for a simple flat, cooked for himself, and was known to travel around the city by public transport.
In this respect, Cardinal Bergoglio's assumption of the name Francis, perhaps for St Francis of Assisi, the 12th-century preacher who, having found God, walked away from family wealth to proclaim the gospel and founded the Franciscan Order, would be apt. (Others suggest it might be after St Francis Xavier, a Jesuit co-founder.)
The Assisi theory would be a signal, perhaps, that Pope Francis' reign will focus on poverty, without the Church losing its spiritual mission and merely evolving into an NGO.
LARGER, MORE COMPLEX ISSUES
But there are larger and more complex issues that will confront Pope Francis. The Church cannot sustain a conception of itself as a spiritual and moral conscience of its members, and more, if it fails to effectively deal with the moral failings of those within its ranks as exemplified by its poor handling of sex scandals of the past decade and recent leaks of corruption and mismanagement at the Vatican.
How Pope Francis engages these issues and tackles the Vatican bureaucracy will be closely watched.
Further, there are the cultural issues facing the Church and the wider society such as gay marriage and the greater availability, and use, of contraceptives among Roman Catholics - which the former Cardinal Bergoglio opposed - and other matters with which he was at odds with the Argentine government. On doctrinal matters, he is of the old order.
Perhaps Pope Francis will have an epiphany, leading to fundamental reforms in Catholicism. Among his first acts was to ask the faithful to pray for him, declaring his papacy a journey of brothers. Dare we hope for a reform agenda?
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