Bergoglio is the archbishop of Buenos Aires, and has spent most of his 76 years in his home country, modernizing Argentina's conservative churches. He was reportedly the second most-voted candidate in 2005 behind Pope Benedict XVI.
He is also the first Jesuit pope in the Church's history.
A former literature and psychology professor and the youngest son of an Italian railroad worker, Bergoglio attended the Philosophical and Theological Faculty of San Miguel and was ordained on December 13, 1969.
Pope Francis I is the oldest of the possible candidates, and was not a front runner in early discussions of who would succeed Benedict.
The 76-year-old cardinal is very economically conservative, choosing to take the bus and cook his own meals, as well as living in a small apartment instead of the papal mansion in Buenos Aires.
He has been profoundly dedicated to eradicating poverty, according to the National Catholic Reporter, which called him "a voice of conscience" and "a potent symbol of the costs globalization can impose on the world's poor" during Argentina's economic crisis.
When he was appointed to the cardinalate in 2001, Bergoglio also "persuaded hundreds of Argentineans not to fly to Rome to celebrate with him but instead to give the money they would have spent on plane tickets to the poor."
He is also staunchly opposed to gay marriage, which was legalized in Argentina in 2010. He called it a "destructive attack on God’s plan."
He does, however, have a more progressive view on contraception, saying that it is permissible in order to prevent the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases.