BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Like most of those in Argentina, he is a soccer fan, his favorite team being the underdog San Lorenzo squad. Known for his outreach to the country's poor, he gave up a palace for a small apartment, rode public transportation instead of a chauffeur-driven car and cooked his own meals.
The new pope, Jorge Mario Bergoglio (pronounced ber-GOAL-io), 76, will be called Francis. Chosen Wednesday by a gathering of Catholic cardinals, he is in some ways a history-making pontiff, the first from the Jesuit order and the first non-European to fill the post in more than 1,200 years.
But Bergoglio is also a conventional choice, a theological conservative of Italian ancestry who vigorously backs Vatican positions on abortion, gay marriage, the ordination of women and other leading issues of the day — leading to heated clashes with Argentina's current left-leaning president.
He was less energetic, however, when it came to standing up to Argentina's military dictatorship during the 1970s as the country was consumed by a conflict between right and left that became known as the Dirty War. As many as 30,000 people were disappeared, tortured or killed by the dictatorship that seized power in March 1976 and he has been widely accused of knowing about the abuses and failing to do enough to stop them.
Despite the criticism, many in Argentina praise Bergoglio as a passionate defender of the poor and disenfranchised. In 2001, for instance, he surprised the staff of Muniz Hospital in Buenos Aires, asking for a jar of water, which he used to wash the feet of 12 patients hospitalized with complications from the virus that causes AIDS. He then kissed their feet, telling reporters upon exiting that “society forgets the sick and the poor."