The election of Jorge Bergoglio as Pope Francis has reinvigorated interest in the Church for many people, both Catholics and non-Catholics alike. With a winning smile and a casual ‘Buona Sera’, the new Pope greeted the world, and the world was entranced. His message of simplicity and his commitment to the poor and marginalised have attracted the rapt attention of an often cynical world. So who is Francis, Bishop of Rome, the man his colleagues went ‘to the end of the world’ to find? This short biography by Fr Michael Collins, Vatican expert and biographer of Pope Benedict XVI, explains in simple terms who Francis is, where he came from, and what the main influences on his life have been. Collins also outlines briefly the important events in the new pontiff’s life to date, from entrance to the Society of Jesus as a young man, his appointment as Provincial of the Jesuits in Argentina at a time of great civil unrest, his appointment as bishop and later Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires, and ultimately his election as Pope and Bishop of Rome.
Fr Michael Collins was born in 1936 and ordained in Rome in 1960. He worked in the Diocese of Derry for fifty years, spending eighteen years in charge of the Bogside parish of Longtower during the Troubles. He is now retired but is a frequent broadcaster – contributing over one hundred pieces to Radio Ulster’s Thought for the Day programme. He also published the book Life, Death and the Bits in Between in 2014.