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Meet Amalia, Whose "No" To A Pre-Teen Wedding Proposal Gave Us Pope Francis

They were just 12, and her father didn't approve of their childhood love. Sixty-five years later, she watched him step onto St. Peter's balcony as Pope Francis.

Amalia teeling her story to the Argentinian press
Amalia teeling her story to the Argentinian press
Fernando Soriano

BUENOS AIRES - Almost a decade before he began the long journey that would take him from the seminary to St. Peter’s, Jorge Bergoglio was in love. It was pre-adolescent, platonic, and filled with naive sincerity. But something quietly stayed with Amalia, the woman in question, and she never forgot him.

They met in the neighborhood of Flores, in Buenos Aires, when they were both around 12 years old and had a crush on each other. Amalia, who told the brief story of their puppy love to the Argentinian press two days after Bergoglio became Pope Francis, described the innocence of how they met.

She remembered a letter that young Jorge sent to her, in which he imagined a future where they would be together for the rest of their lives: “I remember that little letter, and on it he had drawn a white house with a red roof. He said "this is the house I will buy you when we get married."”

Amalia explained that they were too young to call what happened between them “a relationship.” Even still, Bergoglio’s sweet intentions has stayed with her for more than 60 years. “We were not boyfriend and girlfriend," she explained. "I have the impression that I was the first person with whom he thought he could have a home and a family. He didn’t propose bad things to me, he proposed a home and for me, that meant a lot.” The young Bergoglio even told her that if she wouldn't marry him, he'd become a priest.

Angry parents, a farewell

Certainly in the context of the era, as well as the ages of Jorge and Amalia, the boy's letter got a blunt reaction from the girl’s parents. “My father gave me a beating -- how dare I get such a letter from a boy? My mother came to get me at school and scolded me: ‘So, boys send you letters?’ I said to her, ‘no mamá, just Jorge’. And she said ‘what do I care, you’re a fine young lady who we taught better.’”

So, after the clear message from her parents, Amalia asked Jorge to leave her alone and stop sending her letters because she was scared of more repercussions. “I said look, please, Jorge, don’t come any closer -- if my dad finds out, he’ll kill you,” she laughs, telling the story to a small group of reporters.

The two would never see each other again, as he rose through the ranks of the Church hierarchy to become a Cardinal and the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, and she married and had a family.

On Wednesday, along with the rest of the planet, Amalia was surprised to hear that Jorge would be Pope Francis. “I jumped to my feet when it was announced. Jorge, I send you a big hug, with a lifetime of love,” she said.

Her entire life, all of the memories of her childhood, are vivid in Amalia’s mind, even these days. There is neither nostalgia for the past nor tears for a love that was denied. What this woman shows is respect and a wonderful memory of the type of person that Bergoglio has always been. “His heart was always this way; he’s a pastor who offers himself to others, he gives food to the poor and clothes to those who need them,” she said.

Amalia knows that it will be difficult to see him again, to remember their shared past, or to embody the hug she sent him through her TV set on Wednesday: “He is on a very high seat, I’m very humbled and I’m sure he will not lose his humility. But our surroundings force us to live differently, I am his past. A sweet, innocent and humble past.”

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Geopolitics

New Probe Finds Pro-Bolsonaro Fake News Dominated Social Media Through Campaign

Ahead of Brazil's national elections Sunday, the most interacted-with posts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Telegram and WhatsApp contradict trustworthy information about the public’s voting intentions.

Jair Bolsonaro bogus claims perform well online

Cris Faga/ZUMA
Laura Scofield and Matheus Santino

SÂO PAULO — If you only got your news from social media, you might be mistaken for thinking that Jair Bolsonaro is leading the polls for Brazil’s upcoming presidential elections, which will take place this Sunday. Such a view flies in the face of what most of the polling institutes registered with the Superior Electoral Court indicate.

An exclusive investigation by the Brazilian investigative journalism agency Agência Pública has revealed how the most interacted-with and shared posts in Brazil on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Telegram and WhatsApp share data and polls that suggest victory is certain for the incumbent Bolsonaro, as well as propagating conspiracy theories based on false allegations that research institutes carrying out polling have been bribed by Bolsonaro’s main rival, former president Luís Inácio Lula da Silva, or by his party, the Workers’ Party.

Agência Pública’s reporters analyzed the most-shared posts containing the phrase “pesquisa eleitoral” [electoral polls] in the period between the official start of the campaigning period, on August 16, to September 6. The analysis revealed that the most interacted-with and shared posts on social media spread false information or predicted victory for Jair Bolsonaro.

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