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Papal Visit to South America: A Trip Down Memory Lane

Anecdotes of Fr. Bergoglio’s Previous Visits to Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay Emerge

Given Pope Francis’ upcoming visit to Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay, anecdotes are being told about Father Jorge Mario Bergoglio travels and profound knowledge of those countries.

When the now Pontiff went to Ecuador for the first time, in 1980, he visited the six Jesuit Schools of Portoviejo, Cuenca, Quito, Riobamba and Guayaquil. The one he liked most was Xavier College. Father Francisco Cortes, better known as Father “Paquito,” was the Spiritual Director of that center for several years, located in the north of Guayaquil. Today that Spanish Religious of Malaga is 90 years old. He arrived in Ecuador 53 years ago to help in the formation of young Jesuits.

Among other particulars, the Ambassador of Ecuador to the Holy See, Luis Latorre, revealed that the Pope confided to him that among his documents he has an image of the Sorrowful Mother, “to whom I pray every day,” an image of particular devotion in Ecuador. And he reminded him of his friendship with “Father Villalba” and “Father Paquito,” with whom he will also have lunch during his trip.

In the 80s Father “Paquito” was one of those who received Fr. Bergoglio, who at the time was Provincial Superior of the Jesuits in Argentina and was looking for a place in which the Religious of the Society in formation could be trained. They established a friendship that is still alive.

Bolivia

Moreover, Fides News Agency revealed that the present Pope was in Bolivia, in the city of Cochabamba, on two occasions: in 1974 and in 1979. Two photographs, property of the Society of Jesus, attest to Father Bergoglio’s presence in that locality.

In 1974, the meeting took place of Jesuit Provincials of the Southern Cone. The venue of the meeting was the House of Our Lady of Hope in Cochabamba. The present Pope, who at the time was 38 and acted as the head of the Argentine Jesuits, took part in that meeting that served to prepare the 32nd General Congregation of the Society of Jesus.

In 1979, Father Bergoglio returned to Cochabamba to attend the Meeting of Diocesan Directors of Pontifical Missionary Works, which was held in the Casa Nazaria Ignacia in the Cala Cala district, where the Cruzada Sisters of the Church have a venue for Retreats and other meetings.

Today the Sisters have an image in which a young Francis can be seen during his visit to that House when he was not yet Successor of Peter. The enlarged photograph is in the Sisters’ dining room; it was given to them some time ago by Father Antonio Menacho.

Paraguay

This coming July 10 will also not be the first time the Holy Father, whom Umberto Eco calls “a Paraguayan Jesuit,” visits Paraguay. In recent days a number of the local media began to research the Argentine Pontiff’s previous stays in the country, and came across the files of the Political Police at the time of Alfredo Stroessner’s dictatorship, which lasted from August 15, 1954 to February 3, 1989, informed “Tierras de America.”

In this connection, the first time that Pope Francis was in Paraguay, he arrived in the capital, Asuncion, on an Aerolineas Argentinas flight. It was July 18, 1977, and he came to attend a meeting of Jesuit Provincials. Father Mario Garcia, who still remembers that event, confirmed the information.

In the archives of the Museum of Justice there is also the documentation of another visit of the then Provincial Superior of Argentina dated August 6, 1980. Father Jose Luis Caravias corroborated that on that occasion the then Jesuit priest arrived for a meeting of Novice Masters.

About Iván de Vargas

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