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Book tells story of Francis’ grandmother, a key figure in his spiritual life

POPE FRANCIS FAMILY
BERGOGLIO FAMILY/AFP
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We can trace the pope's concern for migrants and the poor to this valiant woman

The grandmother of Pope Francis, Rosa Margherita Vassalo, is the subject of a historical novel written by Marilù Simoneschi. The author explains that Rosa played a pivotal role in the spiritual life of the current pontiff.

“I received the first Christian proclamation from a woman: my grandmother!” Pope Francis said just 10 days after his election in 2013. This was a sign that shows the pontiff’s attachment to his grandmother, the author explained during the presentation of the book, titled Rosa la Luchadora: L’adorata nonna di papa Francesco (Rosa the Fighter: The Adored Grandmother of Pope Francis). The book was published in Italy.

Rosa also supported him in his choice to become a priest against the advice of his own mother, who wanted to see him become a doctor. Rosa Margherita Vassalo was so important in the life of Jorge Mario Bergoglio, says the writer, that he always carried the spiritual testament of his grandmother in his breviary.

Born at the end of the 19th century into a poor peasant family in Italy, Pope Francis’ grandmother married Giovanni Bergoglio. Their son would become the father of the pontiff.

At age 45, she agreed to start all over again in Argentina, where she went with her husband and son. By a quirk of fate, they escaped death by ending up on a different ship than the one they were originally to have boarded, which sunk.

These experiences, emphasizes Marilù Simoneschi, and Rosa Margherita Vassalo’s care for the poorest “allow us to understand the great attention and sensitivity” of the pope for migrants. It is also this relationship, she believes, that is at the heart of his insistence on caring for grandparents.

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