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What Does the Election of Pope Francis Mean for Poor People?

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Pope Francis waves to the crowd from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

Many of the stories that have been written about Pope Francis, who was elected as the Catholic church's 266th pope on Wednesday, make mention of his reputation as a defender of the poor. As Buenos Aires Archbishop, Jorge Mario Bergoglio shunned material trappings and spent much of his time in area slums working with those living in poverty.

But will the election of Pope Francis—who is the first pontiff to come from Latin America, and the first Jesuit—make a difference in the lives of poor and hungry people? This week, many faith leaders said that he could very well turn the world's attention to social justice issues and the needs of hungry and poor people across the globe.

In the Mother Jones piece "The World Has Its First Jesuit Pope. Will He Really Help the Poor?" Eric LeCompte, executive director of Jubilee USA Network, said this papacy will "strongly state that our economy exists for the common good.

"Clearly, with Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio's history, Pope Francis will be a strong voice that our economy must serve and protect the most vulnerable," LeCompte continued. "This Pope will stand up for the rights of poor people, migrants, and workers."

In a Guardian UK article, Chris Bain, director of Catholic development agency Cafod, said he hoped Pope Francis would " put global poverty, climate change and environmental degradation higher up the church agenda."

Bread for the World President David Beckmann said in a statement released yesterday that “[g]iven the vow of poverty that Jesuits take, as well as Pope Francis’s demonstrated commitment to the poor, his selection sends a powerful message to the world that vulnerable people should be protected from further injustice.

“Millions of people in the United States and abroad continue to live in extreme poverty," Beckmann continued. "This selection comes at a crucial time, as U.S. lawmakers debate significant cuts to programs that support hungry and poor people in this country and around the world."

Lorenzo de Vedia, parish priest of Caacupe Virgin of the Miracles Church in Argentina's Villa 21-24, a slum frequented by Pope Francis when he was a cardinal, was especially excited by the prospect of the Catholic church focusing on the poor. "The fact that he chose the name Francisco says it all," Vedia told the Associated Press. 'It says: 'Let's stop messing around and devote ourselves to the poor.' That was St. Francis' message and now [Pope] 'Francisco' can live it."

 

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