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Pope’s missionary nun-cousin translating for him in Thailand

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Sister Ana Rosa Sivori is a Salesian who has spent half a century educating girls in Asia

When in 1966, a young Argentinean nun packed her bags for her new mission in Thailand, she could never have imagined what the future held. Now more than half a century later, Sister Ana Rosa Sivori has spent her life as a missionary in this far-off land. Now she is welcoming her second cousin for a visit and is ready to serve as his translator. Her second cousin, though, is better known than she is: He’s Pope Francis.

The Salesian nun made her vows in 1965; leaving for Thailand meant leaving her family behind, though she would stay in touch via mail, sending news of her adventures in Asia, and Christmas greetings.

Among those she would write was always her cousin Jorge … Jorge Bergoglio. “He was a very studious boy, and a great lover of soccer,” his cousin — five years younger than him — recounts. “Our family is very united and in Argentina, we were always together at family events.”

Her cousin Jorge (his maternal last name is Sivori, like hers) was ordained a priest and later a bishop and then made a cardinal; and during all of that time Sister Ana Rosa was living the life of a missionary, dedicated to educating girls in one of the Salesian schools of Thailand.

On March 13, 2013, she was praying for the Church like everyone else, asking the Holy Spirit to pour down his grace on the cardinals gathered in conclave.

When Cardinal Tauran announced that “habemus papam” and went on to declare that the new Successor of Peter was Jorge Mario Bergoglio, she couldn’t have been more surprised.

But even though his life as Pope Francis is decidedly more intense, these two missionary souls are still in contact through telephone and letter.

Sister Ana Rosa is cheerful and jovial, with a quick sense of humor that is much like her cousin’s. The Sivori blood of Italian descendants is notable: Sister’s dad and the pope’s mom are first cousins.

She was able to see her cousin in Rome on her way back from a trip home to visit the family. At that time, she told a Thai television network: “He has a special character. He is very humble, and lives an austere life. He’s not arrogant. What he teaches is what he lives.”

When the Holy Father’s trip to Thailand and Japan was confirmed, Sister Ana Rosa was told that Francis wanted her to be his translator. Could such a thing have occurred in even her wildest dreams 53 years ago!?

“The pope suggested to the organizers that I be his translator during his trip to Thailand,” she explained to the EFE Agency. “For me it was a wonderful surprise and an honor.”

In her translation work, she will be assisted by Spanish-speaking religious and professors from the University of Chulalongkorn.

This is the pope’s 32nd Apostolic Journey; he will be in Thailand until 23 November and then Japan until 26 November.

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