Nevertheless, it is significant that he chose the name Francis. According to Vatican deputy spokesman Thomas Rosica, he chose it in honor of St. Francis of Assisi because he was a "lover of the poor". (Also, Francis may also have given a slight nod to St. Francis Xavier, co-founder of the Jesuit order--it was, perhaps, a two-fer.)
I was somewhat surprised to learn that there had never before been a Jesuit pope--there has been some resistance to the idea, I've since found out--and surprised also there had never been one named Francis. St. Francis of Assisi lived 800 years ago. Given the popularity of the saint, one might have thought someone would have taken that name before now.
The most hopeful sign is that Pope Francis truly does seem to be a humble person who understands, advocates for, and loves the poor. What's not to like about his cooking his own food and taking public transportation to work? He has the reputation of making poverty issues front and center.
"Cardinal Bergoglio had a special place in his heart and his ministry for the poor, for the disenfranchised, for those living on the fringes and facing injustice," Rosica said.
So that's to the good. It appears he will be supporting the traditional Roman position on social issues, however. His record on homosexuals is said to be "reactionary" and "medieval." On the other hand, he once visited an AIDS hospital and washed the feet of 12 AIDS victims.
There will no doubt be further inquiry into then Father Bergoglio's relationship to the military junta that ruled Argentina in the late 70's and early 80's when he was head of a Jesuit seminary.
How he handled the clergy sex abuse scandal will almost certainly also come under scrutiny. Argentina has largely escaped the headlines on that issue, at least so far. The Boston Globe reported the case of Archbishop Edgardo Storni of Santa Fe who resigned on Oct. 1, 2002, after a book accused him of abusing at least 47 young seminarians. There is no reason to believe then Archbishop Bergoglio had any connection to that case, and there have been no other reports to this point.
Francis' most significant "first" is that he is the very first Pope to come from a nation that was not once part of the Roman Empire. In the first millenium, there were a few Popes from outside Europe, but none who have ever come from a country or region not once governed by Rome.
Talk about the "grand sweep" of history. This is huge, and truly historic. Christianity, especially Roman Catholicism, was once an almost exclusively European religion. The "break-out" from Europe in choosing a Pope is a recognition of what has been true for some time now, i.e. that the balance of world Christianity is shifting south, and, in this case, to the Americas, to wit: He's an American!