The new pope
March 13, 2013 (WABC) -- What a challenge Pope number 266 faces - a Catholic Church with 1.2 billion members worldwide, but with numbers dropping in some countries, and with so many challenges, from credibility to inequality in the church, from scandal to dealing with a world that is so filled with hunger and poverty and in need of the traditional work that so many Catholic priests and nuns in the field have historically done.
If Pope Benedict was something of a conservative caretaker to bridge the 8 years after Pope John Paul's death, then what will Pope Francis be? Jorge Bergoglio is 76, not exactly in the prime of life and, judging by his stoic reaction from the balcony overlooking the huge square at the Vatican, not the bigger than life personality that many Catholics had hoped for.
Nonetheless, this new Pope takes office with the hopes and expectations of so many Catholics that he'll take the church into a more modern and more progressive direction. He's a Jesuit - the first to be elected Pope - and he's from Argentina - the first South American to be elected. But he's been a conservative Cardinal so he is expected to follow, politically, in the footsteps of Benedict. His chosen name of Francis does reflect, however, a commitment to dealing with the poor and the downtrodden.
We will see. We were prepared, as a backup, in case New York's Cardinal Tim Dolan had been elected. He was a long shot, but his take-over-the-room big personality won him all sorts of admirers in Rome. And oddsmakers had put him at 20-to-1 to become Pope. And to all those who pooh-poohed the odds of Dolan - consider this: Bergoglio's odds were 30-1. So much for the oddsmakers.
If you believe the journalists who cover the Vatican, Bergoglio came in second on every ballot when Joe Radzinger was elected 8 years ago as Pope Benedict.
Our Joe Torres is in Rome for us tonight, and we have reporters here with reaction to this first Pope outside the continent of Europe, and the first Jesuit.
Oh yeah, and just what the world needed - Dennis Rodman showed up in Rome today. Calling himself a diplomat of sorts, he urged the election of a black Pope, which isn't a bad idea. But Mr. Rodman's attempt at re-defining himself is a bit puzzling, but a lot amusing. I'm just sayin'.
We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Meteorologist Lee Goldberg with his AccuWeather forecast, and Rob Powers with the night's sports. I hope you can join Sade Baderinwa and me, tonight at 11.
Subscribe to my page on Facebook at facebook.com/billritter.wabc.
Follow my tweets at www.twitter.com/billritter7.
eyewitness news, bill ritter
- Police search for missing 11-year old Brooklyn boy
- AccuWeather: Changeable Week 47 min ago
- Live: Eyewitness News on 7online streamed live!
- Get WATCH ABC for your mobile device
- Vietnam says cannot find object from missing jet
- Cherry Hill Mall parking dispute turns violent
- Squatters flee fire in Paterson; 2 vacant buildings gutted
- Photos: Fire guts 2 vacant Paterson buildings
- Man arrested for stealing money from donation box
- Liam Neeson tours stables amid carriage horse debate
- Toddler's FaceTime saves mother after dog bite
- Fire rips through seven houses in the Bronx 34 min ago
- Antonio Cromartie released by Jets
- Photos: 10 suspects caught in the act
- AccuWeather: Changeable Week
47 min ago