Cardinal Bergoglio, the new Pope, was until now a conservative Jesuit Archbishop in dogmatic subjects and a progressive in economic and social subjects. He has expressed himself against gay marriage when it was passed as a law in Argentina. And he is very much against abortion.

He has always favored keeping good ties with other religions and faiths, as well as non-religious groups. He was accused of being involved with the Military government of Argentina back in the seventies but this could never be proven, quiet the opposite, he was always concerned with social inclusion and defending the poor and helpless. Doctor Perez Esquivel (a Nobel Prize winner), thru his investigations of the Military Dictatorship has never linked Bergoglio to these accusations.

What could the election of the new Pope mean to the Argentinean and Latin-American Catholicism? Without doubt it will mean renewal and reappearance in a time when the Catholic Church is losing people to secularism and Pentecostal churches.

Latin-American is home to 40% of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics. We could predict that Pope Francis will influence the great number of Latin Catholics and those living in the USA, since he will be speaking to them in their same language and can identify with their culture and sufferings.

Many people expect the new Pope to be Pastor before anything else, this is one of his biggest strengths. He does not like luxury in the church, especially in the Vatican. We may see some changes in this aspect. He’s characterized as being a simple Franciscan, always close to those on the margins of society. The church living in abundance and excess is not seen with grace by God and the people. He said it in his first remarks as Pope: “We can be Cardinals or Popes but if we don’t walk, edify and testify for Christ and His crucifixion we are not our Lord’s disciples”.

He’s always been very close to young people. He likes Rock music and does not mind when it is played in church. He thinks that most simple people don’t identify with classic music.

The Lutherans in Argentina will keep working on the mission that our Lord has entrusted to us, like we’ve been doing, testifying about what we find in the Holy Scriptures.

This may be a good opportunity for Lutherans in Argentina, since all questions of faith and religion will occupy an important place. In a secularized context with strong liberal humanism and a society living in political turmoil, Lutherans may in some ways share some points of view with the Roman Catholics, regarding strong confessional differences. The austere and consecrated way of life of Bergoglio shows a line of spirituality that is shared and well seen by agnostic groups and critics of faith in general. It’s possible also that we may see a comeback of some Argentinean Catholics to their churches.

Argentinean history and the actual legal system have shown us that the status of the Catholic church has been an umbrella and shield many times against a government which is more and more secular and even hostile toward Catholicism.

Concerning political subjects, Francis may help to tend bridges of communication in our country. His austere, conciliatory way gives us hope that he may be of some influence on our people and the government.

Latin-American Catholicism is strongly Marianist, this we already observed in Francis’s first public appearance. He is going to take advantage of this and it will be one of the biggest differences between Lutherans and Catholics.

The Lutherans in Argentina will keep working on the mission that our Lord has entrusted to us, like we’ve been doing, testifying about what we find in the Holy Scriptures.

The history of Catholicism shows us that wandering from the Scriptures, taking up rituals and other ceremonies only hides the true Word. Once this happens it is very difficult to reverse and let the Word of God shine, but it seems to us that the new Pope will work for this to happen.

Evangelical Lutheran Church of Argentina
Pastor Antonio Schimpf, Professor in Theology, Concordia Seminary Argentina
Pastor Carlos Nagel, President of IELA