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Pope Francis: Conversations with Jorge Bergoglio

Image of Pope Francis: Conversations with Jorge Bergoglio: His Life in His Own Words
Book Number: 
Date Fred Read: 
April 2016
Fred's Rating: 
Total Pages: 
New America Library

Francesca Ambrogetti, a journalist and social psychologist, has headed Associations for Foreign Press and Correspondents. She works with international media and the Vatican Radio. Sergio Rubin, an award-winning author and journalist, is chief of religious news for the Argentinian newspaper Clarin and its supplement Valores Religiosos. My paperback edition was a gift.

The Amazon website for the Kindle edition of this book is

The home page has a brief summary of this book (use ‘Read more’). I recommend scrolling down the home page to read ‘About the Author’ which gives more significant information about the two authors. I then recommend you scroll down to read the home-page reviews by Stuart Dunn and James F. Day, both of whom made comments very similar to those I had in mind. Then I recommend using the ‘Look inside’ option for the Kindle edition and scroll down to read the 2-pp Contents, 1-p Publishers Note, 5-pp Foreword (by Rabbi Abraham Skora), and the first 7 pages of the 15-pp Introduction by the authors. This first part of their Introduction is a chronological history of Jorge Bergoglio's life and career before he became Pope Francis. It is unfortunate that Amazon’s preview contains his life only up to the time has was made cardinal.

Since the Kindle preview stops before the end of the page (p xxiii) in my paperback edition, I finish the page and then provide a partial extension of the Introduction, with the beginning of the last paragraph of p-xxiii:

“Speaking of his austerity, it is said that when it was announced he would be made cardinal in 2001, he didn’t want to buy a new wardrobe, but preferred to tailor the clothes of his predecessor. And that as soon as he learned some of the faithful were planning to travel to Rome to attend the ceremony where Pope John Paul II would make him cardinal, he pleaded with them no to come, and to give the money for the trip to the poor instead.

“It is also said that he made frequent trips to the shanty towns of Buenos Aires, where during a chat with hundreds of men from the parish of Our Lady of Caacupé, in a slum in the Barracas neighborhood, a bricklayer stood up and said, clearly moved, ‘I am proud of you, because when I came here with my companions on the bus I saw you sitting in one of the last seats, like one of us. I told them it was you, but no one believed me.’

“From then on, Bergoglio had a permanent place in the hearts of those humble, suffering people. “We feel like he is one of us,’ they explained.

“Many also remember from that time his attempt to stop a crackdown in the Plaza de Mayo during the protests of December 2001. When he saw police beating a woman from the window of his archbishop’s residence, he picked up the telephone and called the Ministry of the interior. The secretary of security took his call, and Bergoglio asked him to start differentiating between activists who were creating a disturbance and regular folks who just wanted to withdraw their savings from the bank.

“This was the time when Bergoglio was rising in the national ecclesiastic ranks, and in 2004 he would be elected president of the Episcopal Conference (he was reelected in 2007). He led a moderate line, far from the powers that be and with marked social concern, that had been the majority for some time now in a traditionally conservative Church. It was a line that had been very critical of the neoliberalism of the 1990s and the prescriptions of the International Monetary Fund, which constantly sought payment of the foreign debt on the basis of the sacrifice of those who had the least.

“It is easy to detect in Bergoglio’s pronouncements before the financial collapse at the beginning of the century for the deteriorating situation in the country. His message in the Te Deum on May 25, 2000 – which became a kind of civic speech of great consequence – were eloquent. In 2000, when Fernando de la Riia had been president for less than five months, Bergoglio said: ‘Sometimes I wonder if we aren’t marching, in certain aspects of the life of our society, doomed to impossible things, and we just resign ourselves to small illusions lacking hope. We must acknowledge, with humility, that the system has fallen into a period of dark shadow – the shadow of distrust – and that some of the promises and principles sound like a funeral procession, with everyone consoling the relatives, but nobody walking with the dead.

“After the worst of the crisis, in the oficio patrio mass of 2003, before Néstor Kirchner, who had assumed the presidency just hours before, Bergoglio called for everyone to ‘carry the nation on theirt shoulders’ to make the country great.

“But it was his homily of the Te Deum Mass the following year that would end up having the largest political consequences. Among many other ideas, Bergoglio pointed out that Argentines ‘are quick to intolerance.’ He criticized ‘those who are so clairvoyant that they have become blind,’ and he warned that ‘copying the hate and violence of the tyrant and the murderer is the best way to inherit it.’ The next day, his spokesperson at the time, a priest named Guillerano Marco, clarified that the archbishop’s words were directed to the whole society, including the government and the Church itself, and that, in any event, ‘if the shoe fits, wear it.’ President Kirchner was highly annoyed and decided never to attend another Te Deum officiated by Bergoglio. And in an act not often seen in two hundred years of Argentine history, he moved the oficio patrio out of Buenos Aires, to churches in various capitals of the province. Except for a chance occurrence – a tribute to the Pallottines massacred during the military occupation – Kirchner and Bergoglio never saw each other again.”

There is more history in the remaining few pages of the Introduction, but the above should be sufficient to show the reader that Jorge Bergoglio was a man of conviction who spoke his mind on many occasions, without concern for the political powers that be during Argentina’s years of troubled history. His courage to speak out on whatever is wrong for Argentina’s people, especially the poor, made him very popular with the majority of Argentina’s people. Yet I give next the final paragraph in the introduction:

“There was never any attempt to exhaust the subjects that came up. Only to get a sense of the mind of this sensitive and yet also resolute and very sharp man, he had already become an important key to the Church in the world. His responses [to the questions raised by the authors] reflect a country in constant crisis, a Church plagued with challenges, and a society that searches often unconsciously, to satisfy its thirst for transcendence. To men and women who want to find meaning in their lives, to love and to be loved, and to find happiness, his answers are, in sum, an invitation to think with your gaze upon the most high.”

As my comment I put within [ ] alert you to, the 15 chapters each begin with the authors setting the scene where they interviewed Jorge Bergoglio, after which are questions and answers about the topic suggested by the chapter’s title. When I read this book, I stopped after reading and thinking about the many historical events discussed in the Introduction. Then I took the book to bed with me and read all 15 chapters that evening and night. I think it may become a “book I can’t put down” to echo what my friend who gave me this book – 648 – said about it. He said the same about the book I read first – book 647. But we need to keep in mind that book 648 is a general pre-papal interview. Book 647 may go down in history as an urgent and inspired message about two current critical topics – climate change and inequality. I rate them both at five stars, but without my emphatic comment “think six stars!” for book 648. For I am sure there will be other biographic books as yet unwritten about Pope Francis, for whom I hope and pray has a long term as the Roman Catholic Pope. I hope other issues within the Roman Catholic Church will be reexamined as to their relevancy during his time.

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