The Pope’s Italian Roots | My Pope Philippines

The Pope’s Italian Roots

Pope Francis Italian Roots

In 2015, Pope Francis visited Turin, Italy. He stayed there for less than 48 hours, but what he did during his short trip was truly incredible. He had meetings and held Masses where more than 200,000 people joined him. At the same time, he was also able to slip in some private family time––because, in case you didn’t know, the Argentinian Pope’s roots can be traced back to Italy!


Read on to find out what went down during the Pope’s short (but sweet) trip down memory lane!


Italian Roots

Pope Francis Italian Roots

From left to right: The Pope’s grandfather, Giovanni Bergoglio; father, Mario Bergoglio; and grandmother, Rosa Vassallo.

Lolo Kiko began delving into his family memories before Sunday Mass in Piazza Vittorio. In the temporary sacristy, he met Iolanda, Maria Teresa, and Giulia—three second cousins who are daughters of two older brothers of the Pope’s beloved paternal grandmother Rosa Vassallo. 


The three cousins gave the Santo Papa a small bag of tasty Ligurian amaretti— delicious, chewy almond cookies—and a grand gift, a painting of Mary, Mother of Divine Grace, to whom the Santuario del Todocco—which is located in Pezzolo Valle Uzzone (Cuneo), in the Diocese of Alba in Italy—is dedicated. She is also believed to protect the lands between Piedmont and Ligura, the cradle of Nonna Rosa’s family. The Pope then had lunch with some Bergoglio relatives: 30 cousins covering several generations!


A Special Church

Pope Francis Italian Roots

Pope Francis prays silently in front of the high altar of The Church of St. Teresa of Avila.

Between moments spent with relatives, Pope Francis had another touching experience: He visited the Church of St. Teresa of Ávila in Turin, where his paternal grandparents got married in 1907, and his father Mario was baptized in 1908.


The church is very central. It is along a beautiful arcaded street leading from Porta Nuova station to Piazza Castello, the heart of Turin. Inside the church, the baptistery is immediately to the left, while the second chapel on the right is dedicated to the Little Flower, St. Thérèse of Lisieux. It is here, in front of one of his favorite saints, that the Pope stopped to pray during this visit. On the sides of the high altar, where the Bergoglios exchanged “I Do’s,” there are two chapels designed by Filippo Juvarra, an architect who was one of the masters of Italian Baroque.


Also Read: The Bergoglio Family Kitchen


Traces of Home

Once you step out of the church and onto the street, a yellow building stands right in front of you. This yellow building is now located on the site where the Pope’s grandparents lived from 1907 and 1911, and where his father, Mario Bergoglio, was born. They were a devoted and active family in the community, and it was certainly not difficult for them to go to church—they lived just right across the street! It was here that the Pontiff ’s grandfather also worked as a liquorist (a blender of wines and liqueurs with herbs). The Bergoglio family eventually left Turin for Asti in 1918, but there will always be something left of them in Via Santa Teresa.


For the full article, grab a copy of My Pope Philippines August 2019 issue.
Text by Enrico Casarini. Photos from Vatican Media.


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