Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY — When Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran walked onto the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, telling the crowds in Latin: “I announce to you a great joy. We have a pope!” not many people recognized the name of then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Now, just one year since his March 13, 2013, election, there are still many things most people do not know about the 265th successor of Peter.
Here is a list of 10 things people should know about Pope Francis. He:
1. Has a way with birds: Pope Francis expertly handled a white dove and a green parrot during different general audiences in St. Peter’s Square. According to the pope’s sister, Maria Elena Bergoglio, the future pope had a parrot when he was in the seminary. And because he loved to play jokes, she said, “I wouldn’t put it past him that he taught the little beast a swear word or two instead of how to pray.”
2. Has colorful work experience on his resume: In addition to having worked sweeping floors in a factory and running tests in a chemical laboratory as a teenager, the pope also used to work as a bouncer. Later, when he was no longer kicking troublemakers out of clubs, he taught high school literature and psychology, which, he said, helped him discover the secret to bringing people back … to church.
3. Was a Jesuit Oskar Schindler: When then-Father Bergoglio was head of the Jesuit province in Argentina, he ran a clandestine network that sheltered or shuttled to safety people whose lives were in danger during the nation’s murderous military-backed dictatorship.
According to witnesses, the future pope never let on to anyone what he was doing, and those who were helping him find rides or temporary housing for “guests” never realized they had been part of his secret strategy until years later.
4. Is a homebody with missionary zeal: Even though he has traveled extensively, the future pope considers himself “a homebody” who easily gets homesick. However, he wanted to join the Society of Jesus because of its image as being “on the frontlines” for the church and its work in mission lands.
He wanted to serve as a missionary in Japan, but he said his superiors wouldn’t let him because they were concerned about his past health problems.
5. Has an achy back: When the pope was 21, the upper half of his right lung was removed after cysts caused a severe lung infection. While that episode never caused him further health problems, he said his current complaint is sciatica.
The worst thing to happen in his first month as pope was “an attack of sciatica,” he said. “I was sitting in an armchair to do interviews and it hurt. Sciatica is very painful, very painful. I don’t wish it on anyone.”
6. Was the strongest contender behind then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in the 2005 conclave. If the Argentine had been elected pontiff then, he would have chosen the name John after Blessed John XXIII and taken his inspiration from “the Good Pope,” according to Italian Cardinal Francesco Marchisano.
However, during the 2013 conclave, Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes told the newly elected pope, “Don’t forget the poor,” and that, the pope said, is when it struck him to take the name of St. Francis of Assisi, “the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and protects creation.”
7. Starts his day at 4:30 a.m. “I pray the breviary every morning. I like to pray with the psalms. Then, later, I celebrate Mass. I pray the rosary,” he has said. His workday includes reading letters, cards, documents and reports as well as meeting cardinals, bishops, priests and laypeople. He eats lunch between noon and 1 p.m., then rests for about 30 minutes before returning to work.
But his favorite part of the day is eucharistic adoration in the evening, when he often falls asleep in prayer. “Between 7 and 8 o’clock, I stay in front of the Blessed Sacrament for an hour in adoration. But I pray mentally even when I am waiting at the dentist or at other times of the day,” he said.
8. Can juggle a lot of plates: Jesuit Father Juan Carlos Scannone, the pope’s friend and former professor of Greek and literature, said the pope is “a one-man band” who can juggle many different tasks at the same time.
“Once I saw him writing an article on the typewriter, then go do his laundry, then received someone who needed spiritual guidance. Spiritual work, a technician and a manual laborer all at the same time and with the same high quality,” the priest said.
9. Travels light: When he boarded the papal plane for Brazil last July, people were stunned the pope was carting around his own carry-on bag. What’s inside? “It wasn’t the key for the atom bomb,” he told journalists. “There was a razor, a breviary, an appointment book, a book to read, I brought one about St. Therese, to whom I have a devotion. I have always taken a bag with me when traveling; it’s normal.”
10. Had his “hog” help the homeless: Pope Francis briefly owned what became the most expensive 21st-century Harley-Davidson motorbike in the world. Though he prefers walking and cheaper car models, Harley-Davidson gave him a brand new Dyna Super Glide in June that the pope autographed and put up for auction, raising a hefty $326,000 for a Rome soup kitchen and homeless shelter.