Now Pope Francis , the son of Italian immigrants was born in the Flores quarter of Buenos Aires in 1936. Jorge Mario Bergoglio was ordained when he was 32, in 1969. Beginning as a simple Jesuit priest, and known for his strong social conscience and service to the poor, he became Archbishop of Argentina’s capital, in 1998. He didn’t take the palace residence, but stayed living in an ordinary apartment.
Pope John Paul II made him a cardinal in 2001, at the time when Argentina was going through a real financial and economic crisis. He denounced rampant capitalism as having robbed millions of his countrymen.
The next year, Mariangela Cotto, then a member of the Piedmont regional government in Italy, and now a local councillor in Asti, met Bergoglio in Buenos Aires.
She remembers it well today, back in her own region: “During the Mass, we heard noise coming from outside – a demonstration by women saying they had no food to cook. There was a moment of worry, and someone wanted to close the church doors to keep them out. But the cardinal interrupted the Mass to insist: ‘The church will not close its doors; leave them wide open. If they come in, we’ll listen to their reasons.’”
“It was a moving encounter… all the more so because I had brought him a bottle of red wine made from grapes grown on vines that had been his father’s. He was touched by the gesture, and recalled his origins in Asti. When he welcomed us in his own apartment, we were around 15 people in the group, instead of an expected five. He got chairs for everyone himself, even when we offered to help. He said: ‘I do everything on my own.’ When we sat down at last, he smiled a big smile and said: ‘Let’s speak in Piedmont dialect!’”
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