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Pope Francis is from Buenos Aires, Argentina, and was known well in the slums and shantytowns of the city he loved. That is simply because he spent much of his time there, hearing confessions, saying Mass, distributing Communion to the sick, and even washing them if necessary. The people loved Father Jorge. In fact, many of the people simply called him Bergoglio.
This humble man of the poor hasn’t changed, even though now he is the Pope of Rome and sits on the Throne of Peter. Upon his election to the papacy, his focus remained steadfast. On his first Holy Thursday as pontiff he washed the feet of prisoners.
We might ask, what was it about his homeland that helped shape the man? He was not born into poverty. Why did he love the poor so much? How did his environment influence him?
Here are a few facts about Argentina and the city of Buenos Aires, a place that gave the world a pope.
- In Argentina, the standard greeting is a kiss on one cheek.
- The provocative and beautiful dance known as the tango originated in the brothels of Buenos Aires in the latter part of the 19th century. It was a method of seduction used by the women.
- The University of Buenos Aires was founded in 1821 and is the largest college in the country. Argentina boasts a 96 percent literacy rate.
- Since the 16th century Argentina has been one of the leading wine producers in the world and has more than 1,800 wineries.
- Based on the 2010 census Argentina has a population of approximately 40 million people. Some 40 percent of the population lives in Buenos Aires.
- Tipping is generally 10 percent of the check in restaurants and cafes. Ushers (in movie theatres), doormen, and porters are also tipped.
- Argentina is the eighth largest country in the world
- The name “Argentina” comes from the Latin word argentum, which means silver. Early settlers believed the land was full of silver.
- In 1816, the United Provinces of the Rio Plata declared their independence from Spain. After Bolivia, Paraguay, and Uruguay separated, the area that remained became Argentina.
- A military junta took power in 1976. Democracy returned in 1983.
- The revered soccer player, Diego Maradona, has a religious following and soccer is practically considered a religion in Argentina.
- The country is nominally Roman Catholic (92 percent) but a much smaller percentage actively practice their faith. Protestants and Jews each make up some 2 percent of the population.
That is the land from which Pope Francis comes. But answering the question: “Why does he love the poor so much?” is simple. He loves Jesus that much and truly sees the Face of Christ in the poor.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Pope Francis!
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