As Argentine-born and -raised Catholics, we would like to share our testimony about the capabilities, preparation and Christian humility of Msgr. Jorge Bergoglio, now Pope Francis.
We never met him personally, but he was a prominent person in Argentina, loved by the people.
As the bishop of Buenos Aires, cardinal of Argentina and president of the Argentine Episcopal Conference, he gave us an example of poverty and Franciscan humility, although he was a Jesuit priest. He has the deep orthodox Jesuitical foundation, combined with the humility and dedication of the Franciscans.
Even with his high episcopal rank, he rejected privileges and comfort, and used to travel around the city by bus or subway where people travel like cattle: extremely crowded and no air conditioning.
He also used to visit jails alone (real human deposits that inspire horror) where he paid special visits to prisoners with HIV. Everybody knew him as Padre Jorge.
Moreover, he used to visit villas miserias (villages of misery could be an accurate translation) in the suburbs. In these settlements, houses are built with metal sheets and cardboard. Promiscuity and high crime are rampant. And people live in critical unsanitary conditions, with no potable water and surrounded by garbage. The children play with the latter and contract diseases. Neither the ambulances nor the police dare to enter those areas because they are so dangerous, but Monsignor Bergoglio used to do it alone. He was known as Padre Jorge there too.
In the Argentine Republic, the Catholic Church opinions and actions regarding education, social justice, corruption, poverty and indignity are widely respected by the population. However, these opinions are not respected by the government.
Especially during Cardinal Bergoglio’s administration, which centered on the poor. This created heated arguments between the Cardinal and president Nestor Kirchner (Argentine president 2003-’07) and later his wife Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (Argentine president 2007-present). All these arguments generated a profound hate from the government to the Catholic Church in general, and Cardinal Bergoglio in particular. Why? Because the Kirchner government has always been corrupt. They appear to care about the poor and uneducated by giving them subsidies instead of helping them find decent jobs, and basically paying them for their votes in the elections.
Also there is an abundance of illicit wealth. Therefore, the presence and words of a sensible and humble man as Bergoglio (who is not afraid to say things the way they are) irritate them and they even refused to attend the Te-Deum that is celebrated at the Buenos Aires Cathedral every official holiday (it’s an Argentine custom and the president always attends) where Bergoglio rebuked the wealthy and powerful.
Even the followers of the Kirchner government went so far as to create rumors, and even to fake pictures, accusing Bergoglio of cooperating with the dictatorship (1976-’83) when he actually was helping many victims to leave the country so they would not be tortured or murdered.
We are convinced he will be an active bridge builder, within the Catholic Church and between other faiths and all men of good will. We are baseing this on his courageous and compassionate work in the Argentine Republic.