The first Latin American pope, Argentina’s Jorge Bergoglio is a moderate known for his strong negotiating skills as well as a readiness to challenge powerful interests.
He is a modest man from a middle class family who is content to travel by bus.
Described by his biographer as a balancing force, Bergoglio, 76, has monk-like habits, is media shy and deeply concerned about the social inequalities rife in his homeland and elsewhere in Latin America.
“His character is in every way that of a moderate. He is absolutely capable of undertaking the necessary renovation without any leaps into the unknown. He would be a balancing force,” said Francesca Ambrogetti, who co-authored a biography of Bergoglio after carrying out a series of interviews with him over three years.
“He shares the view that the Church should have a missionary role, that gets out to meet people, that is active…. a church that does not so much regulate the faith as promote and facilitate it,” she added.
“His lifestyle is sober and austere. That’s the way he lives. He travels on the underground, the bus, when he goes to Rome he flies economy class.”
The former cardinal, the first Jesuit to become pope, was born into a middle-class family of seven, his father a railway worker and his mother a housewife.
He is a solemn man, deeply attached to centuries-old Roman Catholic traditions. Since rejecting a comfortable archbishop’s residence, he has lived in a small apartment outside Buenos Aires where he spends his weekends in solitude.
In his rare public appearances, Bergoglio spares no harsh words for politicians and Argentine society, and has had a tricky relationship with President Cristina Fernandez and her late husband and predecessor, Nestor Kirchner.