Alfredo Luis Somoza described his meeting with Pope Francis as part of an "intense day" in Rome
Today Alfredo Luis Somoza is a successful journalist, and the president of the Institute for International Economic Development. But 38 years ago he was a university student wanted by Argentina’s military regime, and a Jesuit priest named Fr. Jorge Bergoglio helped him flee to Italy.
On June 30, in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace, for the first time in 38 years, Somoza came face to face with the man who helped save his life.
Somoza told Italy’s La Stampa newspaper it was a quick reunion, but the pope recognized him right away. Francis remarked, “Who would have ever said we would meet again here?”
Although it was their first face to face meeting since Somoza left Argentina, the two were in contact just after Pope Francis was elected. The author and journalist had a book that was set to release just as the new pope was elected, titled Beyond the Crisis: Notes on Future Economic Scenarios.
Somoza managed to stop the printing of the book to add one more chapter about the first pope in the era dominated by the emerging markets of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS). He sent a copy of the book to the newly elected pope, who replied with a personal letter and a blessing.
Their face to face reunion happened at the end of a papal audience to mark the 50th anniversary of the the Italo-Latin American Institute.
On his Facebook page Somoza posted photos from his meeting with the man he calls “Father Jorge” and said it was an intense day. Pope Francis, he said, spoke about violence, the injustices of poverty, and “migration that breaks families and nations, that separates parents from children, that will never stop until there is a global pact to end wars, famine and injustice.”
Somoza also told La Stampa that he sees Pope Francis fixing some of the errors that have led some of the faithful in Latin America to distance themselves from the Church. In particular, he praised Pope Francis’ move to have the Church in Argentina open its archives from the “dirty war” period.
“I think a long overdue step was finally taken,” he said, adding “concrete acts, that could clear up an uncomfortable truth, were needed and owed to the families of the victims of the dictatorship.”
Somoza was wanted by the Jorge Videla military regime because of his work as a young journalist writing about culture for a self-published magazine that was hand distributed on the streets of Buenos Aires.
He attended Buenos Aires’ Univerisad del Salvador, where he met Fr. Bergoglio, the Jesuit provincial at the time, who urged students to keep their eyes open about what was going on around them.
Somoza and others in his class learned later, by personal experience, how much then-Father Bergoglio was doing to help victims of the Videla regime.