Pope Francis opens up about old age and his Italian ancestry

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The Pope said he's living a quiet and religious old age and shared his affection for the region where his family originates from.

Pope Francis, the 266th and current Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, has been hospitalized due to respiratory issues, raising concerns over his health. According to the Vatican, the Pope spent a 'calm night' at the hospital, and his health has been improving steadily. They announced:

'His Holiness Pope Francis rested well during the night. The clinical picture is progressively improving and the planned treatments continue. This morning after breakfast, he read some newspapers and went back to work.'
Pope Francis opens up about old age and his Italian ancestry Vatican Pool - Corbis

The 86-year-old pontiff has had a recent history of medical issues, including suffering from severe pneumonia in his youth, having part of his lung removed, and canceling trips due to knee pain. Last year, he canceled a trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan due to the need for therapy and rest for his knee.

As Bishops and well-wishers in churches across Italy are praying for his speedy recovery, we take a look at his simple life and family.

Pope Francis' admirable life

Pope Francis, born Jorge Mario Bergoglio in Buenos Aires, Argentina, is the head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State. He was elected pope on March 13, 2013, and is the first pope from the Americas, the first Jesuit pope, and the first pope to choose the name Francis.

Pope Francis opens up about old age and his Italian ancestry Giulio Origlia

Pope Francis is known for his humility, simplicity, and concern for the poor. He has emphasized social justice and environmental issues and has spoken out against economic inequality and the excesses of capitalism. He has also taken steps to reform the Catholic Church, including tackling the issue of sexual abuse by clergy and promoting interfaith dialogue.

Who are Pope Francis' family?

According to Rome Reports, Pope Francis was born to Italian immigrants in Argentina. His father was a railway worker, and his mother, who was born in Buenos Aires but had Italian ancestry, was a homemaker. He has four siblings: three living and one deceased.

Pope Francis' family has Italian roots, with his grandparents running a café in Turin before migrating to Argentina in 1929 with their son, Mario Bergoglio, who later became the pope's father. Mario Bergoglio met Regina Maria Sivori, another descendant of Italian immigrants, in Argentina, and they got married in 1935, and Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the future pope, was born a year later.

According to AP News, although Pope Francis has not traveled to his home country of Argentina since becoming pope, he stays in touch with his sister and keeps informed about his nephews' lives. One of his nephews founded a non-profit organization that helps the impoverished in Buenos Aires, inspired by the Pope's message during World Youth Day in 2013. The other nephew is a priest.

Pope Francis opens up about old age and his Italian ancestry Alessandra Benedetti-Corbis

A very special place for Pope Francis

Even though Pope Francis is originally from Argentina, his family has origins in Italy's Piedmont region.

In an interview with Italian daily La Stampa, published on November 18, 2022, Pope Francis said he honored his northern Italian roots by celebrating a special Mass in his father’s hometown, where he was greeted by thousands of people. He said at the beginning of the speech:

'From these lands, my father set out as an immigrant to Argentina, and to these lands, rendered precious by the rich fruits of the soil and above all by the native industriousness of their people, I have now returned to rediscover and savor my roots.'

During the speech, Francis mentioned that he had visited Piedmont frequently before becoming Pope and used to visit his father's relatives on his way to Rome. He expressed his fondness for the Piedmontese language, which he learned as a child from his grandparents who lived close by. He said:

'When I was 13 months old my mom had a second child, and my grandparents lived 30 meters from our house: My grandmother would pick me up, I would stay with them who spoke Piedmontese. You could say that I ‘woke up to life’ in Piedmontese.'

A special personality

During the same interview, Pope Francis shared his thoughts on old age. He reflected on his life every day, following the advice of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus. He also mentioned that he lives his old age with 'tranquility, a great peace, a genuine joy and religiosity.'

Pope Francis opens up about old age and his Italian ancestry Alessandra Benedetti-Corbis

When asked whether he was happy to be Pope, he replied that he had always been happy in the places where the Lord had placed him. He saw being Pope as a service, not a win. The Pope said:

'Thanks to my vocation, I have always been happy in the places where the Lord has placed and sent me. But not because ‘I won something,’ — I have not won anything … this is a service, and the Church asked me for it; I didn’t think I would be elected, and instead the Lord wanted it. So onwards. And I do what I can, every day, trying to never stop'

He finds God in the people he meets, 'in each one of you.' In the face of suffering, he extols the virtues of silence:

'So many grieving and distressed people do not need sermons, […] but only someone to take their hand and let them talk, vent.'
© Franco Origlia

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