A book on the life of Pope Francis’ paternal grandmother, “Nonna Rosa. La Roccia delle Langhe, da Cortemilia all’ Argentina” (Grandmother Rose. The Rock of Langhe, from Cortemilia to Argentina), has been republished by the Vatican’s Libreria Editrice Vaticana, reported “Vatican News” in Italian.
The sales revenue is being allocated entirely to the “Haciendo Lio” [“Stirring the Pot”] Association, which is concerned in Argentina with initiatives in favour of the poor. Pope Francis’ nephew, Jose Ignazio Bergoglio, is its Founder.
A courageous woman who crossed the centuries — she lived between the 19th and 20th centuries — and the world, from Piedmont to Argentina, where she immigrated at 45, with her husband and her son Mario, future Pope Francis. A woman who very often had to begin again from zero, always sustained by her faith. Rosa Vassallo played an essential role in the transmission of the faith to her grandson, Jorge Mario Bergoglio. Pope Francis himself has often mentioned it.
The book’s authors, Orsola Appendino and Giancarlo Libert recall her figure with great richness of photos and texts. They wished to link this initiative with fund-raising for the “Haciendo Lio” Association, founded in 2015 by Pope Francis’ nephew, Jose Ignazio Bergoglio, son of his sister Maria Elena. The Association works in Buenos Aires, and in the surroundings of the capital, and in the province of Salta, Rosario in the province of Santa Fe, and in the province of Santiago del Estero. The organization provides food and clothes for people in very vulnerable situations, through, for example, “solidarity rounds” or canteens. Programs for professional reinsertion are also offered.
Jose Ignazio Bergoglio explained to “Vatican News”: “What we do first of all is to go to them and, once we have understood their problems, we see how we can proceed, what type of aid to bring them. Once we have understood their problems, we offer them other programs, which make possible the first objective for which we work: the promotion of the person, namely, that they not find themselves in this situation of great vulnerability. We do so with means such as formation, professional mediation, protection and inter-action with different organizations, so that they have — not only the instruments — but also different aids to be able to access job interviews and get work.”
The Pope’s nephew specified the breadth of this aid: “We aid some 800 people a month and the objective is that all these people go through our school of formation, but at present — because we are unable to do so physically — we help 200 to 300 people with laboratories and courses. We offer a formation that makes possible rapid insertion in the world of work, linked to certain trades such as the restoration of furniture, the maintenance of buildings, the teaching of languages, or formation in hairdressing, manicure — courses that enable them to get work quickly. And we also teach them to do their resume, and, once every three months, we organize job interviews for them.”
It was his great-grandmother, says the Pope’s nephew, who upheld the family’s faith. She “was a pillar for the whole family; she was the one who transmitted this intense relationship with God to my Uncle Jorge, today Pope Francis. She was also the one who transmitted it to my uncles and to my mother. They left Italy — a very difficult situation –, and when they arrived here, she knew that the only way to surmount all that she was going through was to hang on to her faith in God and it’s what she transmitted and what has been transmitted from one generation to another.”
He explained the origin of the Association’s name. “The name comes from what Pope Francis said to young people at the World Youth Day in Brazil. “Haciendo Lio” is also founded on Pope Francis’ teachings. It’s not a closed Association; it has volunteers and also people of different Confessions, who know perfectly that we are linked to the Holy Father’s example and words.
For Orsola Appendino, co-author of the book and a native of Asti, the diocese where Pope Francis ancestors were born, “it’s right to dedicate a book to Grandmother Rose, to Maria Elena and to her children, who do so much for the poor of the great South American capital.”
She also pointed out that Rosa Vassallo was “a woman of faith who never lost hope and who spoke of her Italian and Piedmontese origins to her grandchildren, teaching them first of all to pray and then the Piedmontese dialect.”
She also said that the link with the “Haciendo Lio” Association stemmed from her trips to Argentina to meet the Pope’s parents and the villages twinned with Piedmontese localities. “I met with this Association and the Pope’s parents right away, whom I visit when I go to Argentina. And it seemed right to us to speak of Grandmother Rose and to try to send a small contribution to the activities for the poor,” she added.
What most struck her about Grandmother Rose was the figure of a “courageous mother who, during World War I, lived alone with her son in Turin because in 1916 her husband John was called to the War and he fought for three years on the Carso. She also said that Rosa Vassallo was enrolled in Catholic Action and that at the end of World War I, when she moved to Asti, she became an instructor at Catholic Action. So, she was a woman with a very strong faith, “practiced in the family, in the parish and with her grandchildren.”