When Pope Francis turned 80 years old on December 17, 2016, the world resounded with happy greetings of love and cheerful well wishes. But just as early birthday greetings began to pour in, he responded with his trademark sense of humor. “Thank you very much for your greeting for my upcoming birthday,” Pope Francis said. “But I’ll tell you something that will make you laugh. In my country, expressing greetings ahead of time brings bad luck and those who do it are jinxers!”
Hence, instead of greeting our dear Santo Papa in advance for his birthday (we wouldn’t want to ‘jinx’ his special day, right?), My Pope takes you on a trip back in time to when the young Jorge Bergoglio was born. We take a peek at Lolo Kiko’s childhood, and the influences that shaped him into the great and wise man we all admire today.
On December 17, 1936, a squealing baby boy was brought into the world. His parents, Mario and Regina, happily picked the name Jorge Mario Bergoglio. They decided to have their son baptized eight days later, not realizing that the date, December 25, may have been a sign of great things to come—marking another amazing new beginning for the Christian world.
Descended from Italian immigrants, young Jorge grew up in Buenos Aires. His days were filled with reading books and playing soccer. Even if his father was an accountant, they were not affluent. In fact, they were barely making ends meet. However, this did not deter the Bergoglio children from having a happy childhood. They had each other, and, according to Austen Ivereigh, author of The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope, Jorge was close to his siblings, Oscar, Alberto, Marta, and María Elena.
A Great Influence
Young Jorge spent many hours with his Grandmother Rosa. As neighbors, they would frequently meet; she would look after him, and he spent many hours listening
to her reciting Piedmontese poetry. She was the one who ignited his love for literary classics and shaped his views on religion. Now a man of venerable age himself and the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church, Pope Francis tells the youth to recognize the role of grandparents. “Profit from the lives, the stories, and the wisdom of your elders, of your grandparents, for there is great wisdom there.” Speaking to his audience in Paraguay in 2015, he said, “‘Waste’ lots of time listening to all the good things they have to teach you. They are the guardians of that spiritual legacy of faith and values which define a people and illumine a path.”
Words of Wisdom
On his 80th birthday, it was the Santo Papa’s turn to reflect on old age. “For some days now, I have had in mind a word that seems ugly: old age, a thought that frightens me,” he admitted. He remembered his first papal greeting in 2013, in which he articulated, “Old age is the thirst for knowledge.” Then he said, “I hope it will be the same for me.” Isn’t it so admirable to see a man of his status, age, and stature still thirsting for new knowledge?
No wonder a lot of people love our Lolo Kiko!