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Francis: A Tango loving Pope with new shoes, love for Our Lady and poor


(Vatican Radio) Bit by bit, as news of Wednesday’s election of Argentinian Pope Francis reached people around the world, little known aspects of the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s life and ministry have been emerging in the media. But how many people knew that the new Pope takes the bus, cooks for the poor, loves to dance the Tango and is a fan of Buenos Aires’ San Lorenzo de Almagro soccer team? He also believes in paying his bills on time and packing his bags himself – in fact, on day one of his pontificate, Francis went to the Rome guest house where he had been staying ahead of the conclave to pay his bill and pick up his luggage before moving into the papal apartments.

He also made a point of beginning his day Thursday with a moment of prayer to Our Lady. As he had anticipated in his address to crowds in St. Peter’s square after his election, Pope Francis made a private but unexpected visit to the Rome Basilica of St. Mary Major to pray.

Early Thursday, Tracey McClure sat down with two seminarians studying in Rome, Argentinian Br. Ricardo Saenz and Br. Carlos Padilla of Mexico for some insight into who is the new Pope…beginning with his devotion to the Virgin Mary.

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Br. Ricardo says the “the Argentinian people, we’re very Marian… Each year we always have a walking pilgrimage which (the former Cardinal) always precedes. The whole diocese of Buenos Aires’ walk until (they get to) the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lujàn (in Buenos Aires Province)…twelve hours of walking. It’s full of young people who walk all day, all night and he always wants to celebrate that mass. He always goes back to Lujàn to the Sanctuary.

“I make many points of connection with Pope John Paul II,” says Ricardo, “and I think …he’s putting his pontificate under the protection of Mary… that’s clear.”

“But, it’s interesting: he said several times (in his first speech Wednesday night) ‘Rome, Rome,Rome:’ the diocese of Rome, pastor of Rome. And he goes now to the Salus Populi Romani (the sacred Marian image displayed in St. Mary Major Basilica), the Lady of the city of Rome.”

Br. Carlos notes “he’s near to the people; I mean, he’d always take the subway to go to these poor neighborhoods of Buenos Aires. This is a humble man and a joyful man who prays a lot. He prays two hours in the morning since he’s Cardinal. It’s a beautiful thing we have to remember …and he (made a point of praying ) three times last night.”

Pope Francis caught the last bus of Cardinals returning to the Santa Marta guesthouse in the Vatican following the conclave Wednesday. At the toast made to him that night at dinner, he responded: “may God forgive you for what you’ve done.”

The seminarians tell us “he didn’t take the Cardinal of Buenos Aires’ apartment; he kept the one he had before; he cooks by himself.”

“The day he was departing for the conclave, a couple of friends brought him a pair of shoes. He’s always very humbly dressed…and the shoes he was wearing were not in very good shape. So even (in) those little things you see the humility, the austerity of this pastor.”

“In Buenos Aires we know he’s very much devoted to the work of justice and peace. In Buenos Aires he founded a Vicariate called ‘Priests for the Favellas’ (a very poor and disadvantaged slum area). So in our diocese he has a little structure of priests working just in the favellas.

“He himself would go there; he would cook for them on Christmas day – even as Cardinal. He would go several times a year to these places. He knows very well all his 300 priests in the diocese…these are the places he loves to be.”