It's not every day that the Catholic Church gets a new leader, and certainly not every day that it gets one like Pope Francis. Pope Francis, previously the Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, is the first South American pope (and apparently one with only one healthy lung and a penchant for the tango). That in itself is a pretty big deal, but the world is hungry to learn more about this new, 76-year-old pontiff as he assumes his new role.
HLN: What will some of Pope Francis’ biggest challenges be initially?
Thavis: He'll face one big challenge in trying to match his simple, unassuming style to the traditional ways of the Vatican. That may find some resistance in Vatican environments. Already, the new pope has shown it may not be business as usual: He rejected some of the trappings of a newly elected pope (the fur-lined cape, the gold pectoral cross, sitting on the throne) and his first official act was to slip out of the Vatican to pray at a Rome church.
Probably the toughest challenge will be to govern the Vatican bureaucracy effectively. He is said to have the instincts and the right management skills, but this is something he cannot do alone. His first major appointments will show where he's headed. He's going to need some courage to let some major Vatican officials go.
HLN: What inspired the name Francis? And how do popes usually choose their papal names?
Thavis: Clearly the new pope chose Francis to send a message: that the church stands with the poor. Saint Francis of Assisi has a special place in church history, of course. He once had a vision of Christ on the cross telling him: "Go, Francis, and repair my church in ruins." In the minds of many, the need for reform today is no less than in Saint Francis' time.
All popes give their new name much thought. Cardinal Bergoglio apparently wanted to make it clear that he was turning a new page, choosing a name that had never been used by a pope.
HLN: How have the expectations for the pope changed since Benedict’s decision to resign? Do you think people still expect Francis to remain in office for the rest of his life?
Thavis: Papal resignation will always be an option now. The tricky part will be for this pope, and future popes, to make that decision without public or private pressures. There are some cardinals, in fact, who believe it might be good for the next pope not to resign -- just to show it's not obligatory.