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On his 81st birthday, some factoids about Pope Francis


Osservatore Romano | AFP

Larry Peterson - published on 12/17/17

He is the oldest of five siblings, only one other of whom is still living.
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Most of the globe knows Pope Francis as the humble pope with a deep love for the poor and marginalized, a man who comes from Argentina and, on occasion (or so it’s said) leaves his apartment at night so he can feed the poor. (This last bit isn’t probably true, though.)

Francis is the no-frills pope who lived on his own, did his own cooking, and even rode to work on the subway while he was the cardinal-archbishop of Buenos Aires. In fact, His Eminence declined to live in the cardinal’s mansion, and made a similar choice when he was elected to the papacy, electing to live in a Vatican residence because, he explained, he needs to be around people. They might have named the song “Give me the simple life” afterPope Francis.

Some elements of the Holy Father’s life are, since being elevated to the papacy, well known. His name was Jorge Mario Bergoglio, and he was born on December 17, 1936, in Flores, a suburb of Buenos Aires. He is the oldest of five children: two brothers, Alberto and Adrian; and two sisters, Maria Elena and Marta Regina. Maria Elena is the only one of his siblings still living.

His dad was an accountant. He and his wife, Regina, immigrated to Argentina from Italy  in 1929 to escape the tyrant Mussolini. Jorge’s dad died in 1959 and his mom in 1981. The love of family felt by Pope Francis can be captured in something he said in 2015 at the World Meeting of Families: “It is worthwhile to live as a family, that a society grows strong, grows in goodness, grows in beauty and truly grows if it is built on the foundation of the family.”

Before entering the seminary, the future pope worked as a chemical technologist and as a bouncer in a nightclub (hard to imagine him “bouncing” anyone). He was ordained a priest in 1969, headed up the Jesuits in Argentina until 1979, became archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1998, and was elevated to cardinal in 2001. He was elected pope on March 13, 2013.

Here are a few more tidbits:

  • In the history of the Church, he is the first pope to choose the name Francis and also the first from the religious order of men founded by Ignatius of Loyola, known as the Jesuits.
  • He loves football (soccer) and faithfully follows his favorite team, San Lorenzo. He even retains a team membership card and pays his dues every year.
  • Pope Francis loves to dance—especially the tango (which, by the way, had its beginnings in Buenos Aires).
  • As a teenager, the pope had a love interest, and (reportedly) told her, “If I don’t marry you, I’m going to be a priest.”
  • The pope has a Master’s Degree in chemistry and has taught psychology, philosophy, literature, and theology.
  • When he was 21, he developed a severe respiratory infection. Part of his lung was removed along with three cysts. But 60 years have passed and he is doing fine.
  • Just four days before his birthday in 1969, he was ordained a priest, at the age of 32.
  • He completed his doctorate in 1986, after studies in Germany.

On March 21, 2013, Pope Francis was visiting a homeless shelter. Talking to the people living there he said, “You tell us that to love God and neighbor is not something abstract, but profoundly concrete: it means seeing in every person the face of the Lord to be served, to serve him concretely. And you are, dear brothers and sisters, the face of Jesus.”



Read more:
Just desserts: How Aleteia helped serve the pope a favorite dish

Pope Francis
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