Jorge Mario Bergoglio is better known as Pope Francis and has been appointed the 266th Pope of the Catholic Church. His Roman Catholic followers number some 1.2 billion people and devotees are keen to learn of his background and roots in his native Buenos Aires in Argentina.
Explore the Pope’s Birthplace of Flores in Buenos Aires
Born on December 1936, Bergoglio grew up in the middle-class Buenos Aires suburb or ‘barrio’ of Flores. As the oldest of five children, he thrived in a working-class neighbourhood where his father earned a paycheck as a railroad worker and his mother was a housewife. Prior to joining the church, Bergoglio attended secondary school at the Escuela Nacional de Educación Técnica – where he graduated and initially had intentions on becoming a chemical technician after earning his certificate. Visitors to Flores can still see the remains of 18th century country houses, dating back to the period before the suburb was incorporated into Buenos Aires itself.
Catch the San Lorenzo Soccer Team in action
Bergoglio also discovered his love for the game of soccer in Buenos Aires. His passions for the game largely rest on the play of the local San Lorenzo Soccer team who are based in the Almagro barrio. His love for the team ran so deep that in 2008, the pope actually offered to celebrate the team’s 100th anniversary by heading a special mass before thousands of fans. Despite now being over 70 years old, Bergoglio also had made claims in the past that he has never missed a match since he began following the team in his childhood. Visitors can actually attend a match themselves (if there are any spare seats) and watch the team that inspired Pope Francis. Almagro is a middle-class district located in the very center of Buenos Aires. At the heart of Almagro is large park that holds a thriving market ever Sunday, with local food and wares on sale.
Visit the Inmaculada Concepcion Seminary
As Bergoglio seriously began to learn his craft, the future pope studied at the Inmaculada Concepcion seminary in the leafy suburb of Villa Devoto. The barrio of Villa Devoto is an affluent suburb on the west side of Buenos Aires. The district is known as the “Village of Devotion,” and served as a place where Bergoglio began to read, learn and interpret different theological texts.
Discover the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral
Bergoglio served most of his priesthood and held masses at the Catedral Metropolitana. The impressive Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral building sits on the famed Plaza de Mayo. Visitors can experience the exquisite Baroque interior, rococo altar and elaborately tiled floor for themselves.
There is also a carved wooden statue of Christ statue within the cathedral. And the mausoleum of General José de San Martín is based at the Metropolitan Cathedral in honour of the Argentinian Independence leader – the man who is largely responsible for liberating South American countries such as Argentina and Chile from Spain. Visitors are welcome at the cathedral that Pope Francis presided over from 1998 to the day he became pope, as this is still very much a working place of worship.
Get to know Cordoba
While much of Bergoglio’s work was done in Buenos Aires, his influence is also largely felt in the city of Cordoba. Cordoba has recently gained newfound notoriety by tourists as the city houses the Jesuit Museum. Bergoglio lived near the Jesuit Museum when he was serving as the head of the Argentine Jesuits in the 1990s and thought so highly of the artifacts inside, that he arranged to bring 30 items back with him when he moved back to Buenos Aires. The Jesuit Museum is now known as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and features artifacts saved from the days of Spanish rule.