It is rare to say that there is anything truly new in an institution like the Catholic Church and the papacy that is two thousand years old. Instead, we often speak in terms of the first time something has happened in several centuries.
That is not the case today.
The newly elected Bishop of Rome is a man who in one instant made history in three ways.
Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio is the first pontiff to take the name Francis.
As an Argentinian, he becomes the first pope from the New World.
He is also is also the first Jesuit to hold the position of Vicar of Christ.
Given these firsts, as well what we have seen in the first hours of his papacy, I would expect that Pope Francis will be something of a departure from his immediate predecessor -- perhaps from his two immediate predecessors. He may be something akin to Pope John XXIII in terms of being a pastoral caretaker pope who turns out to be something more -- or perhaps we are seeing in him what the beloved, short-lived Pope John Paul I would have been had he not died after a pontificate of only 33 days.
We shall see.