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19/3/2013 - RMG - Pope Francis and the Salesians
Photograph available in Image Bank

(ANS – Rome) – As the days pass, new episodes and aspects of interest regarding Pope Francis emerge. Amongst them, a number tied in with the Salesian world. As well as his special devotion to Mary Help of Christians – displayed every 24th of the month at the Marian shrine at Almagro in Buenos Aires – there are others. The new Pope is also a Salesian past pupil.

In 1949 Jorge Mario Bergolio attended “Wilfrid Barón” Salesian College in Ramos Mejía, along with his brother. Jorge was in class 6B. From the list of prize-winners that year we see he got first prize for conduct, religion and the Gospel.

A detailed biography published by the Argentine Daily “La Nación”, also reports that the Pope, when he was 17 had Fr Enrico Pozzoli as his spiritual director, from the Almagro community. This priest, before bringing Don Bosco's charism to Tierra del Fuego – the ends of the world – left an indelible mark on him. It was Fr Pozzoli who suggested to the young Bergoglio to go to the Tandil mountains to overcome an attack of pneumonia; it was he who helped the future Pope apply for the seminary at Villa Devoto; and Card. Bergoglio included a reference to him in the preface to his first book – Meditations for Religious – referring to the “strong impact” this Salesian had on his life, and the “example of ecclesial service and religious consecration” he gave.

At Tandil, when he was 18 years, Bergoglio met Roberto Musante, two years older than him, who he then met in more complex circumstances later. Like when Bergoglio, during the dictatorship, took in three seminarians belonging to Bishop Enrique Angelelli.

At Tandil, Fr Musante recalls, the two got to know each other and talk, and Bergoglio “was rather quiet and humble”. The two young men then took different paths. Today, Fr Musante, a Salesian, works in Angola where he looks after hundreds of youngsters at Lixeira, “rubbish dump” in Portuguese. Bergoglio, instead, chose to follow St Ignatius Loyola.

Published 19/03/2013

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