On Wednesday March 13, 2013, at noon, he surprised me eating a slice of pizza in Garay and Boedo. He was on his way to the plastic workshop of the Artists Front at the Borda Hospital. The televisions of “la San Antonio” were polarized by the notes and comments in Saint Peter’s Square in Rome. But that parsimonious wait changed to agitation when the Pope-elect bore the name of Francis: he was Jorge Bergoglio.
I immediately felt bewildered. I could not prevent the memory of Orlando Yorio from visiting me with that endearing pain with which he died feeling misunderstood by the one who had been Provincial in Argentina of the Society of Jesus in the dark times of the Dictatorship. His exclusion from the Order; his disappearance and torture; forced exile from him.
Like Orlando I knew other conflicting stories with that Bergoglio.
To tell the truth, he was unaware of other testimonies that he would soon hear after his election as Bishop of Rome: from those seminarians he had saved from military power, for example.
I remembered, among other things, his intervention before the new Equal Marriage Law when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires in 2010. It seemed to me that his speech did not accompany the sincere search for rights of many.
In short, the news of the new Pope certainly did not make me happy.
In the days that followed, I observed reactions around me: very happy anti-popular groups, perplexed social and ecclesial leaders, many and many who greeted the news of a simple Pope wearing black moccasins and not red shoes… I still did not know what to think.
Progressively, some things began to impact me: the initial greeting as “bishop of Rome” immediately referred me to the Second Vatican Council and the idea of reform in the Church; the humble request “pray for me”; the name of Francis and the dream of a “poor Church and of the poor”; the closeness to popular movements and that wonderful message in Santa Cruz de la Sierra (Bolivia) about “Land, Roof and Work” in 2015; his lucid magistery: “Evangelii Gaudium”, “Laudato Si”, “FratelliTutti”, as the most outstanding letters among other documents.
When I wanted to remember, many who lived his appointment no longer spoke of him. That “Peronist Pope” had let them down. I met furiously angry people. On the contrary, when I went to Villa 31 and a rag greeted me on the anniversary of the martyrdom of Carlos Mugica, he told me: “the Pope is now one of ours.”
I am not an expert on Vatican politics; and I lack evidence to unravel such a complex story. Although I confess Naive, neither do I think that the election of a Pope is decided by simple divine inspiration, like the ecstatic experience of cardinals in a consistory. I can imagine threads and corridors ablaze with suggestions, discussions and comments of different calibers.
Some do not believe that Francis has brought an ecclesial “spring”. I know friends who would have wanted the Pope to go more in-depth on many issues. But certainly these ten years we have witnessed words and gestures that I had never seen before in the Bishop of Rome.
I believe that Francisco, like all mortals, lives with his contradictions. But I am one of those who think and feel that Francis has been a gift from God for this time: he put the poor at the center, he brought us closer to the Gospel.
*Member of the Group of Priests in Option for the Poor