And a Peronist to boot!
BUENOS AIRES – Argentina is a country where apparently anything can happen – what a surprise we got yesterday!
The announcement that Cardinal Bergoglio was the new pope created a wave of shock, emotion and enthusiasm for the Argentinian people, and a not-so-minor annoyance for the government.
The first non-European pope is Argentinian. It is a miracle. Well not so much – the last name Bergoglio is as Italian as Pavarotti. For the Italian Catholics who fervently wished to have their own pope again as was the tradition for centuries, they got their pope. The pope is part Italian.
But at the same time, Bergoglio is a pureblooded Argentinian. He was born in Flores, a rural district of Buenos Aires, the son of an immigrant railway worker. He graduated from a public school, is a peronista and is a supporter of the San Lorenzo soccer team.
A peronista in the throne of Saint Peter – what a shock!
After all, the Peronism movement, while for fighting social justice, is also known for its anti-clericalism.
A fan of Argentine writers Jorge Luis Borges and Leopoldo Marechal, Bergoglio is also an intellectual. He is also famous for his humility: he refused to move into the archbishop’s residence and said no to a driver – he travels via public transportation like everyone else.
Bergoglio became pope because of what he is and what he represents – an intelligent and austere man of the Church, who has taken a vow of poverty. He is the first Jesuit pope, and the first to adopt the name of Francis of Assisi, symbol of willed poverty. This represents a strong message and a hope for the Church, after the internal scandals that marred Ratzinger’s time as pope.
An enemy of the Argentine president
Bergoglio comes to a Church that is troubled. Before the crowd gathered in St Peter’s square yesterday, he gave a simple speech with a serene smile – a strong sign. We will have to wait and see what history he writes for the Church. And what history he writes for Argentina.
Bergoglio is an enemy of the Kirchners. They never went to the Buenos Aires Cathedral and never invited him in the Casa Rosada, the Argentinean presidential palace. They even encouraged lawsuits accusing him of being complicit with the military dictatorship in the kidnapping of two priests during the Dirty War.
A former peronista governor says that Bergoglio would turn the volume up on the radio when they spoke because he was worried he was being spied on or being listened to. However, neither the government nor President Cristina Kirchner could ignore the impact that yesterday’s news provoked.
Pro-Kirchner deputies refused to interrupt a parliamentary session to celebrate the historic appointment. The President sent an obligatory and bureaucratic message to Francisco, colder than ice. While attending a ceremony at Tecnopolis, Kirchner said she hoped Pope Francis “would be able to achieve a larger degree of fraternity between the people of the world.” She added that she hoped that “he would send a message to the great powers so they will engage in dialogue.” It seemed as though she was giving him advice on how to be pope. Reactions exploded on social networks.
And as if this were not enough, yesterday was Saint Cristina's Day.