Who Is Pope Francis?
One day Jorge Mario Bergoglio was on his way to meet some friends. (Say: HOAR-hay MAH-ree-oh bear-GO-lyo). But instead he stopped suddenly and then turned around. He walked into his neighborhood church in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He told the priest that he wanted to devote his life to God. Jorge was only sixteen years old at the time. He hadn’t planned his words. They surprised him, yet they were completely heartfelt. From that moment on they shaped his life.
Today Jorge Mario Bergoglio is known as Pope Francis, leader of the Roman Catholic Church. Ever since he became pope in 2013, Francis has worked to help the poor. Again and again, he delivers a message to everyone, not only Catholics, of hope and joy.
Some say he will make important changes to the Catholic Church. This may happen or it may not. Either way, Pope Francis’s faith still shapes every day of his life. And it inspires people everywhere. Chapter 1
: A Close Family
Jorge Mario Bergoglio was born in South America—in Buenos Aires, Argentina—in 1936. His parents, Mario and Regina, were part of the city’s large Italian community. Like their neighbors, they were hardworking people who spoke Italian at home and went to church often. Argentina was a Catholic country, and this was important to the Bergoglios. It made their new home feel a little like their old one.
Jorge was the oldest of five children. He was close to his parents and to his brothers and sisters. But the person who knew him best was his grandmother Rosa. Outspoken and warm, she took care of little Jorge during the day. She taught him about the Catholic saints, prayed with him, and took him to church. She also taught him to be open-minded. Her acceptance of people, whether they were Catholic or not, was something Jorge never forgot.
Rosa also taught Jorge to love books. He was fascinated by the Italian novels she read to him, with their dramatic stories and many characters. And he looked forward to Saturday afternoons when the family gathered to listen to Italian opera on the radio.
Jorge was an excellent student who worked hard in school. Yet as much as he enjoyed his studies, Jorge loved soccer more. He followed the sport closely with his friends and longed to be a great player. He settled for being a lifelong fan. Even as pope, he is still a member of the Buenos Aires soccer club of his boyhood. And when the team plays a game, he always knows the score.
Jorge and his brothers and sisters went to Catholic schools. Every evening after their father, Mario, came home from work, he led the family in prayer. Their priest, Don Enrico Pozzoli, was a friend as well. He often came for dinner to eat Rosa’s delicious homemade ravioli.
The Bergoglio family lived in a city where many young men entered the priesthood. So Jorge’s decision to become a priest was not unusual. It certainly did not surprise his grandmother Rosa, who knew him so well.
Jorge’s parents were another matter. They had expected him to continue his studies in chemistry. His mother had always hoped Jorge would become a doctor.
With a medical degree, he would have a comfortable life. He would never have to worry about money the way she and Mario did. Being a priest also meant that Jorge would never marry or have children. Though Don Enrico did his best to change her mind, it was years before Regina could accept her son’s decision.
Yet Jorge was determined. In 1956, he enrolled at a seminary—a school for future priests—in Buenos Aires.
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