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Bergoglio, 76, reportedly got the second-most votes after Joseph Ratzinger in the 2005 papal election, and
he has long specialized in the kind of pastoral work that some say is an essential skill for the next pope. In a lifetime of teaching and leading
priests in Latin America, which has the largest share of the world's Catholics, Bergoglio has shown a keen political sensibility as well as the kind
of self-effacing humility that fellow cardinals value highly, says his official biographer, Sergio Rubin.
Bergoglio would likely encourage the church's 400,000 priests to hit the streets to capture more souls, Rubin said in an Associated Press interview.
He is also most comfortable taking a low profile, and his personal style is the antithesis of Vatican splendor. "It's a very curious thing: When
bishops meet, he always wants to sit in the back rows. This sense of humility is very well seen in Rome," Rubin said.
Bergoglio has slowed a bit with age and is feeling the effects of having a lung removed due to infection when he was a teenager—two strikes against
him at a time when many Vatican-watchers say the next pope should be relatively young and strong. "But he's going to be very influential in the
congress of cardinals, one of those who is most listened to," Rubin said.
Bergoglio couldn't prevent Argentina from becoming the first Latin American country to legalize gay marriage, or stop its president, Cristina
Fernandez, from promoting free contraception and artificial insemination. When Bergoglio argued that gay adoptions discriminate against children,
Fernandez compared his tone to "medieval times and the Inquisition."
This kind of demonization is unfair, says Rubin, who wrote Bergoglio's authorized biography, "The Jesuit."
"Is Bergoglio a progressive—a liberation theologist even? No. He's no third-world priest. Does he criticize the International Monetary Fund, and
neoliberalism? Yes. Does he spend a great deal of time in the slums? Yes," Rubin said.
Critics also accuse him of failing to stand up publicly against the country's military dictatorship from 1976-1983, when victims and their relatives
often brought first-hand accounts of torture, death and kidnappings to the priests he supervised as leader of the Jesuit Order in Argentina
Like other Jesuit intellectuals, Bergoglio has focused on social outreach. Catholics are still buzzing over his speech last year accusing fellow
church officials of hypocrisy for forgetting that Jesus Christ bathed lepers and ate with prostitutes.
"In our ecclesiastical region there are priests who don't baptize the children of single mothers because they weren't conceived in the sanctity of
marriage," Bergoglio told his priests. "These are today's hypocrites. Those who clericalize the Church. Those who separate the people of God from
salvation. And this poor girl who, rather than returning the child to sender, had the courage to carry it into the world, must wander from parish to
parish so that it's baptized!"
Bergoglio compared this concept of Catholicism to the Pharisees of Christ's time: people who congratulate themselves while condemning others.
"Jesus teaches us another way: Go out. Go out and share your testimony, go out and interact with your brothers, go out and share, go out and ask.
Become the Word in body as well as spirit,"
article about Bergoglio