Born Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Pope Francis began his papacy on March 13, 2013, after the resignation of Pope Benedict XV. He quickly became a humble champion of the poor and a religious leader by example. He was named TIME‘s Person of the Year for 2013. Here are 12 remarkable facts about His Holiness, Pope Francis.
1. He has a master’s degree in chemistry
Pope Francis has a master’s degrees in chemistry, philosophy and theology from the University of Buenos Aries. When he was young he was employed running tests in a chemical laboratory. Before becoming the Archbishop of Buenos Aries he was a teacher of theology, philosophy, literature and psychology.
2. He speaks many languages
In addition to being fluent in Spanish, Italian and German, the current pontiff knows some English, French, Portuguese, and Piedmontese, a dialect of northwest Italy, where his parents were from.
3. He likes The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings
According to TolkeinBrasil, Pope Francis says JRR Tolkein is a contemporary author worth reading and he has read his works himself. His Holiness mentioned the author during his 2008 Easter message to Argentine teachers. He used Frodo and Bilbo as examples of hopeful heroes who are called to walk a path in the unfolding drama between good and evil.
4. Pope Francis is a soccer fan
The pontiff is a supporter of San Lorenzo de Almagro Football club, a classic football club from his home neighborhood. San Lorenzo won their first international title in 2001, the Copa Mercosur. Having the world’s most powerful religious authority on your team can’t hurt.
5. He loved the tango and had a girlfriend in his youth
Pope Francis enjoyed dancing in his youth and in his group of friends there was a girl whose company he enjoyed. This was before he discovered his religious vocation and switched to priestly celibacy. Hearts were broken, it can be assumed.
6. Pope Francis is not called Pope Francis I
Ecclesiastical naming customs dictate that Pope Francis is not to be called Pope Francis I. His Holiness will not get the affixed numeral until there is a Pope Francis II. Pope John Paul I is an exception to this rule because he deliberately chose to add the “I” to his title.
7. He owned a Harley-Davidson motorcycle
The pontiff came into the possession of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle after he gave blessings to hundreds of Harley owners and their rides in St. Peter’s Square. He sold the bike at an auction that benefited the homeless. Always one to eschew fancy rides, Pope Francis traded in his Mercedes-Benz “Popemobile” for a “30-year-old Renault 4 with 186,000 miles on the clock,” Christian Post reported. (Random fact: 186,000 is the number of miles light travels in a vacuum per second.)
8. He flies economy class
Pope Francis is a modest man who, while Archbishop of Buenos Aires, lived in a simple apartment and rode the bus. He chose his papal name due to the humility and austerity associated with St Francis of Assisi. When he was elected by the conclave of cardinals, he flew to Rome in economy class, a remarkable fact.
9. Pope Francis once worked as a bouncer
Before he became a Jesuit, Pope Francis worked as a bouncer in a Buenos Aries bar to help pay for his studies. Not exactly God’s work–except for St. Peter at the Pearly Gates, of course–but a job’s a job. In addition to being a bouncer and working in a chemical laboratory, Pope Francis was also employed as a janitor at one time.
10. Pope Francis is a legal citizen of three countries
His Holiness is a citizen of Argentina and because of Italy’s jus sanguinis legal tradition and his Italian parentage, he is an Italian citizen as well and has an EU passport. The Holy See is recognized as a sovereign entity with the Pope as its leader, so that makes three.
11. Pope Francis is the first non-European pope in 1200 years
The last time a non-European pope was elected was in 731, when Gregory III of what is now Syria became Pope.
12. Pope Francis only has one lung
Aged 21, Jorge Mario Bergoglio had life-threatening pneumonia and a few cysts. Part of one of his lungs was excised during the treatment.
Thank you for reading these 12 remarkable facts about Pope Francis.
By K. Elsner