Vatican City: In five years, the world has gotten to know Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the son of Italian immigrants to Argentina who was so self-deprecating that when he emerged on the loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica on March 13, 2013, as Pope Francis, he quipped that his brother cardinals had to search to the “end of the Earth” to find a new leader.
For starters, he likes his mate — an Argentine tea. He suffers from sciatica. For a period in his 40s he saw a psychoanalyst to “clear up some things”. His favourite film is Fellini’s ‘La Strada’ followed closely by ‘Rome, Open City’ with a fondness too for “Babette’s Feast.”
Here are a few facts about Pope Francis, as well as some highlights from five years with a very different kind of pope.
September 21, 2014: When he wept hearing the life story of a priest, the Rev. Ernest Simoni, who was tortured and imprisoned during Albania’s communist rule. Francis later made Simoni a cardinal.
October 1, 2016: When he was spellbound by the haunting Aramaic chant sung by a young Georgian girl and a monk in the Orthodox cathedral outside Tblisi. Francis was later snubbed by the Orthodox hierarchy at his open-air Mass in the Georgian capital.
December 1, 2017: When his already whispery voice weakened as he met with Myanmar’s Rohingya refugees and told them “The presence of God today is also called Rohingya.”
June 8, 2014: When Francis hosted the Israeli and Palestinian presidents for a peace prayer in the Vatican gardens. Full-scale conflict broke out in the Gaza Strip a few weeks later.
September 24, 2015: When he challenged the US Congress to rediscover America’s ideals by taking action on climate change, immigration and poverty reduction. The speech was the first by a pope at the US capitol.
February 12, 2016: When he met with the Russian Orthodox patriarch in the first such encounter in over 1,000 years. The meeting took place in the geopolitically and geographically convenient airport of Havana, as Francis was travelling to Mexico.
Light but telling moments
March 14, 2013: When he paid his bill and checked out of the Rome residence after he had been elected pope. The gesture set the stage for a papacy of simple, humble gestures.
November 30, 2015: When he invited the imam of Bangui to join him in his popemobile for a spin through the besieged, divided Central African Republic capital in a sign of Christian-Muslim coexistence.
January 18, 2018: When he married two Chilean flight attendants at 35,000 feet after their church wedding was cancelled due to an earthquake.
What have we learned?
Francis doesn’t much care for “selfies” but tolerates posing for them because that’s what kids these days do.
He hasn’t watched television since June 15, 1990, when he made a promise to the Virgin Mary that he wouldn’t.
He likes Caravaggio and Chagall, Mozart and Bach. His preferred literary references run from Dostoyevsky to Borges and the Argentine epic poem ‘Martin Fierro’.
He has a temper, admits to having an “authoritative” bent and has been known to curse like a sailor.
He rises at 4:30am, takes a siesta after lunch and is asleep by 10pm.
He carries a razor and breviary prayer book in the worn black satchel he carries on trips.
He heats his own food in the Vatican hotel dining room microwave.