As a child, I was well indoctrinated in the lore of sainthood. In general, I enjoyed reading biographies and, trust me, there were many biographies of saints available for my reading pleasure. Because of that background, I could immediately identify three men that the new pope might have had in mind when he selected this name: Francis of Assisi, Francis de Sales, and Francis Ignatius of Loyola.
I have the greatest respect and appreciation for some people I have known up close and personal who happen to be Catholics but one cannot deny the depth of controversy currently stewing in the Catholic Church. The Church is in need of strong, compassionate, thoughtful, and forward thinking leadership. The influence of three Francises (how do you write the plural of Francis?) referenced above suggests that maybe Pope Francis the First might, just might, be that sort of leader. St Francis of Assisi is renown for his humility, his embrace of the poor,and his love of all things in the natural world. St Francis de Sales connected with the common person and wrote a book of prayer designed for the bust layperson who wanted to weave spirituality into his or her life. Finally, St Francis Xavier of Loyola, founder of the Jesuit order, preached tolerance for other religions, believed in free education for all, and insisted on a vow of poverty for his followers. These few word descriptions tell so little but so much about the possible direction of the Church in the upcoming years.
Here's the thing: why should I, or anyone who is not a practicing Catholic, even care what this private, religious institution does? Well, largely because it IS an international institution, with influence in educational and social welfare programs around the world. Its policies and its culture influence social movements and developments globally, particularly in second and third world nations. That's why I care what goes on within the Catholic Church.