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Chemist and Pope: Quite a Formula

• March 13, 2013 • 5:58 PM

The new pope, Argentinian Jorge Mario Bergoglio, is a startling choice for a number of reasons. He’s the first pope from South America, the first Jesuit, the first to take the name Francis.

Lost in all the excitement is the fact that, in all probability, he’s also the first chemist to head the Roman Catholic Church.

A few days ago, we noted the lack of science, as well as social-science, degrees on the part of  the current crop of Catholic cardinals. So we’d be sinfully remiss to ignore the fact that Bergoglio defies that trend.

The New York Times reports:

He came relatively late to the priesthood, enrolling in a seminary only at the age of 21, after earning a degree in chemistry.

By all accounts, he was a brilliant student who relished the study not just of theology but also of secular subjects such as psychology and literature.

Sounds like a man of wide-ranging intellectual curiosity. There’s something gratifying about the notion of a pontiff who could, if needed, analyze the properties of the white smoke that signified his election.

Tom Jacobs
Staff writer Tom Jacobs is a veteran journalist with more than 20 years experience at daily newspapers. He has served as a staff writer for The Los Angeles Daily News and the Santa Barbara News-Press. His work has also appeared in The Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, and Ventura County Star.

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