The world's parish priest makes his mark

People person

Francis burst on to the stage in March, 2013. With an easy charm, and an agenda focussed on the poor, he captured hearts around the world, even winning over a sceptical media. At year's end, TIME named him Person of the Year. 

- TIME, Dec 11, 2013

On the edge of Buenos Aires is a nothing little street called Pasaje C, a shot of dried mud leading into a slum from what passes for a main road, the garbage-strewn Mariano Acosta.

There is a church toward the end of the ­pasaje—Spanish for passage—where, on one occasion, the local priest and a number of frightened residents took refuge deep in the sanctuary when rival drug gangs opened fire.

Children wander heedless of traffic, because nothing can gather speed on these jagged roads. But even Pasaje C can lead to Rome.

As Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Mario Bergoglio made room in his schedule every year for a pastoral visit to this place of squalour and sorrow.­

He would walk to the subway station nearest to the Metropolitan Cathedral, whose pillars and dome fit easily into the centre of Argentine power.

Travelling alone, he would transfer on to a graffiti-blasted tram to Mariano Acosta, reaching where the subways do not go.

He finished the journey on foot, moving heavily in his bulky black orthopedic shoes along Pasaje C.

On other days, there were other journeys to barrios throughout the city—so many in need of so much, but none too poor or too filthy for a visit from this itinerant prince of the church. Reza por mí, he asked almost everyone he met. Pray for me.

When Cardinal Bergoglio inherited the throne of Peter—keeper of the keys to the kingdom of heaven—he made the same request of the world: "Pray for me."

His letter of retirement, a requirement of all Bishops 75 and older, was already on file in a Vatican office, awaiting approval.

Friends in Argentina had perceived him to be slowing down. In an instant, he was a new man, calling himself Francis after the humble saint from Assisi.

As Pope, he was suddenly the sovereign of Vatican City and head of an institution so ­sprawling—with about enough followers to populate China—so steeped in order, so snarled by bureaucracy, so vast in its charity, so weighted by its scandals, so polarising to those who study its teachings, so mysterious to those who don’t, that the gap between him and the daily miseries of the world’s poor might finally have seemed unbridgeable.

Until the 266th Supreme Pontiff walked off in those clunky shoes to pay his hotel bill.

Read full article: Pope Francis, The People’s Pope (TIME)

MORE:

Pope Francis is named Time magazine's person of the year, beating whistleblower Edward Snowden (ABC)

Pope Francis named Time Magazine Person of the Year (RTE)

Pope Francis: 'Person of the Year' (Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis' Gentle Revolution (Rolling Stone)

Pope Francis: Timeline of Bergoglio's First Year in Papacy (International Business Times)

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