Partially because of his Latin American heritage, Michael Sean Winters expects Francis to be an advocate for the poor in an era of global economic disruption and turmoil:
Bergoglio and the other bishops in Latin America have been relentless in questioning and criticizing those who exercise power in ways that marginalize the poor. The criticism of capitalism is trenchant: He called the IMF’s efforts to squeeze interest payments out of a struggling Argentine economy “immoral.” Here, Bergoglio stands in continuity with Benedict whose criticism of modern capitalism never made headlines but was there for anyone who cared to look. Catholicism does not propose any specific economic or political systems, but it must always criticize whatever systems insult human dignity.
Philip Jenkins argues along the same lines:
Bergoglio is … clearly an heir to the strong tradition of social-justice activism in the Latin American church. Again, this owes much to his Argentine background. If Argentina was once regarded as a hemispheric success story in economic development, its history since the 1950s has been much grimmer, with systematic decline and repeated bouts of hyperinflation, reaching catastrophic dimensions during the crisis of 1999 to 2002. In consequence, people who regarded themselves as citizens of a prosperous near-European economy faced ruin, the annihilation of their savings, and the loss of their jobs and homes.
Naturally, having lived through such a disaster, Bergoglio has placed the church’s social mission front and center in ways that a European would regard as alarmingly radical. Even more than the last two incumbents, Francis I will speak forcefully and critically about neoliberalism and global economic exploitation.
(Photo: Crib figurines’ artist Genny Di Virgilio works on a figurine depicting Pope Francis, the day after he was elected on March 14, 2013 in Naples. By STR/AFP/Getty Images)