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Reflection on Our Argentinian Pope

Article courtesy of Alejandro Cañadas, Ph.D., assistant professor of economics.

On the afternoon of my birthday on March 13, I tuned in to live coverage of the papal conclave on EWTN Global Catholic Network. 

I was very excited and nervous for the expectation of a new Pope, thinking, “Wouldn’t it be great to celebrate a birthday with a papal election?”

Not only would my birthday wish come true, but by that afternoon I would feel even more blessed as I learned that Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, archbishop of my native Buenos Aires, was elected Pope. 

When they announced his name in Latin, I froze ... Did I hear them correctly? Did they say Bergoglio? I was so moved I started crying.

I was born in Argentina and lived in Buenos Aires until 2000. I am from the neighborhood of Flores, a middle-class barrio in the center of the city. I grew up about six blocks from the childhood home of Cardinal Bergoglio.

I have known Jorge Bergoglio since 1992 when he was named auxiliary bishop of Buenos Aires by Blessed John Paul II. In 1998, he became the city´s archbishop and the Canciller (the head) of the Catholic University of Argentina where I was studying my undergraduate degree in Economics.

Pope Francis as Cardinal Bergoglio
Cardinal Bergoglio celebrates the Mass on the streets in Argentina.

In Flores there is the Basilica of San Jose de Flores—dedicated to St. Joseph. Cardinal Bergoglio would often celebrate Mass there, particularly on the feast day of St. Joseph, March 19 (coincidently, the same day of the Mass marking the beginning of his Petrine Ministry as Bishop of Rome). 

My sister, Maria, received the sacrament of confirmation from the cardinal. 

After college, I worked in a company called Telefonica of Argentina, located two blocks away from the Plaza de Mayo downtown beside the Cathedral. I used to walk to attend daily Mass at the cathedral, where I would sometimes see Cardinal Bergoglio celebrating the holy Mass.

I remember Jorge Bergoglio as a holy, smart priest who was always concerned about the poor. He liked to be with the poor and he would visit the poorest slums of Buenos Aires, serving the people in food-kitchens and celebrating the Sacraments.            

In 1993, my wife, Cynthia, and I worked as missionaries to the poor outside of Buenos Aires. Cardinal Bergoglio blessed us before we left for a month-long mission. My wife, Cynthia still has the small wooden cross pendant the cardinal gave her before that trip. 

I always looked up to the man who is now Pope, not because of any “extraordinary” things, but because of his ordinary humility and willingness to work with the poor.

Cardinal Bergoglio washing feet of the poor
Cardinal Bergoglio washing the feet of the poor in Argentina.

Bergoglio loved to celebrate Mass with the poor, and he was always humble, traveling on public transportation. I always admired how much he spoke out in defense of the poor. And he would celebrate Masses in the slums.

I really hope the election of Pope Francis is a sign of renewal for the Church not only in Latin America, but also around the world. I believe the election of a Pope from Latin America may encourage Latin Americans who are falling away from the Church to come back to the grace of God.

The message he is sending is of a Church that has to be closer to the Cross of Christ and the poor. A Pope from Latin America is going to renew the Church, especially in the Americas.

During his first week as Pope, he said, “Do not think what this pope can do for the Church, please think what you could do for the Church.” I believe that the new Pope from Argentina is going to renew the Church by his simple example and his humility and many people will come back to the Church.

“How I would like a Church which is poor and for the poor!” —Pope Francis, audience with the media representatives on March 16, 2013

Let us pray for Pope Francis!

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