Argentina’s Pope Francis elected in surprise choice

By Danielle Wiener-Bronner
March 14, 2013

Cardinal conclave chooses 76-year-old Cardinal Bergoglio as pope, coordinated blasts hit heart of Baghdad, and Turkish Kurds eye best hope for end of war. Today is Thursday, March 14, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner and @clarerrrr

Newly elected Pope Francis, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, waves from the steps of the Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica in Rome, March 14, 2013.  REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

Pope of the people. On Wednesday afternoon, after five rounds of voting and a day earlier than expected, the cardinal conclave elected Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina to the papacy. Cardinal Bergoglio was the first to use St. Francis of Assisi, revered for an ascetic lifestyle, as inspiration for his papal name, Pope Francis.The new pope was a contender for the position in 2005 but barely mentioned as an option this year. The 76-year-old pope is known as a champion of the poor, preferring to prepare his own meals and travel by public transport. The first pope from Latin America marks a significant departure for the Church:

After more than a millennium of European leadership, the cardinal-electors looked to Latin America, where 42 percent of the world’s Catholics live. The continent is more focused on poverty and the rise of evangelical churches than questions of materialism and sexual abuse, which dominate in the West.

Bergoglio’s critics say he was “cozy” with Argentina’s notorious military dictatorship in the late ’70s and early ’80s, and Pope Francis shares his predecessor’s harsh stance against gay marriage. The new pope will have to contend with accusations of sex abuse that have plagued the Catholic Church in recent years.

Blasts in Baghdad kill and injure dozens. Coordinated explosions killed at least 25 people and wounded at least 50 in Baghdad on Thursday morning, police and medics report. The attacks took place in the Alawi district, located near a number of government buildings as well as the Green Zone, which houses Western embassies. Sectarian tension may have played a role in the attack:

Iraq’s security has come under growing strain as the sectarian conflict in neighboring Syria reignites Iraq’s own combustible Sunni-Shi’ite mix.

Police reported that three car bombs were detonated, and that a suicide bomber was thwarted by police in the Justice Ministry. The blasts come days before the tenth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Kurdish leader conducts talks from prison. The Kurdistan Workers party (PKK) is expected to declare a ceasefire next Wednesday after a decades-long war that has claimed 40,000 lives. The agreement is a promising step toward an elusive peace treaty:

Since October, intelligence officers and Kurdish politicians have been speaking to PKK leader Ocalan in the island prison where he was dispatched in 1999 after capture by Turkish special forces in Kenya. What has emerged appears the most comprehensive effort yet to end the conflict with the PKK, considered a terrorist group by Washington and the European Union as well as Ankara.

Turkey is home to 15 million Kurds, who make up roughly 20 percent of the country’s population.

Nota Bene: Standing Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro accused the U.S. “far-right” of plotting to kill his rival, opposition leader Henrique Capriles.

Standouts:

What history lessons leave out - Most Japanese schools barely teach 20th century history. (BBC)

Horse meat returns - DNA testing shows that Biltong, the South African meat snack labeled as gazelle, contains traces of horse meat. (The New York Times)

Material progress - The United States fears North Korea may have used uranium to fuel last month’s tests, which would signify a more-developed nuclear program. (CNN)

In god’s ear - Nicolas Maduro says the spirit of Hugo Chavez asked Jesus to pick a South American pope. (The Atlantic)

The Dear Leader problem - Reuters columnist Ian Bremmer argues that China should keep the pressure on Kim Jong-un. (Reuters)

From the File:

  • Indians question how rape accused was able to commit suicide in jail
  • German finance minister confident Italy will form effective government
  • Palestinian leader wants peace talks this year with Israel
  • Venezuela may be unable to embalm Chavez’s remains
  • China’s Xi appointed president, completes rise to the top
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