Jorge Bergoglio — not the Pope, but his cousin who lives in the Argentine city of Cordoba — came to Rome with two of his three children and was able to greet Francis during last Wednesday’s General Audience, June 25. On Thursday, June 26, he attended the Mass at Saint Martha’s and had breakfast with the Holy Father. He found him in “wonderful” form. He never thought that his cousin, Jorge Mario, would be Pope. “When I was told, I ran out into the garden of my house as if I had had a fit of madness,” he recalled to ZENIT.
On Saturday, June 28, he was received in a small but heartfelt reception by the mayor and the municipality of Santena, in northern Italy, 21 kilometers from the city of Turin. Photos were taken, then a dinner was held with the Bergoglios and members of the family who live on this side of the Atlantic – some 100 persons. The Pope’s cousin said that now it is not only an honor, but also a responsibility, for all the members of the family to have a Bergoglio who is Pope.
ZENIT: Mr. Bergoglio, what happened in Santena?
–Jorge Bergoglio: I was received in the municipality of Santena in a brief but heartfelt ceremony, with the mayor, recalling our countries and with the ritual photos.
ZENIT: How many Bergoglios are there?
–Jorge Bergoglio: This evening we are going to have a dinner with some one hundred persons. In Argentina, we had a party last September and we were 390, and the census of the Bergoglios indicates that we are just over one thousand.
ZENIT: How was your meeting in the Vatican with your cousin, the Pope?
–Jorge Bergoglio: First we attended the General Audience, in a privileged place, where the so-called “kissing of the hand” takes place; then we were at the Mass in Saint Martha’s. We were a small number of people, some fifty. After the Mass we were able to talk with him, give him presents and things sent to him by the family in Cordoba, and then we had breakfast there in Saint Martha’s.
ZENIT: You had not seen one another for about two years. What did Francis say to you?
–Jorge Bergoglio: He said to me: “I am very happy; I see you looking very well, and he asked us about ourselves and about the family.” He was happy, very happy. We see that he needs some family spirituality also.
ZENIT: Had you thought that he could be elected Pope?
–Jorge Bergoglio: No, it was a very big surprise. When I was told, I ran out in to the garden of my house, it seemed like a fit of madness, no? And then a sort of responsibility came for the whole of our family, which is so numerous – a greater commitment in the individual and public life of each one.
ZENIT: Did you play together when you were kids?
–Jorge Bergoglio: No, I met him as a grownup, when he came as the Superior of the Jesuits of the city of Cordoba and then, all the cousins met him and we dined together. We also attended audiences in Buenos Aires, always in contact, communicating with one another. He was always very likeable and very profound.
ZENIT: How did you find him now?
–Jorge Bergoglio: Wonderful, a man who radiates happiness, affection, spirituality, simply fantastic.
ZENIT: Do you see a difference from the Bergoglio you knew?
–Jorge Bergoglio: There has been an extraordinary transformation. His message hasn’t changed; it’s the same as ever. Meanwhile, he has realized that he has a very great ambit of influence, and that he can do many things, because he is the greatest spiritual leader of the world. Two of my children are with me overwhelmed by having had the opportunity to be with him.