Our hometown Pope

March 18, 2013

Buenos Aires, Argentina

By Enrique Marcarian

Used to covering news with headlines like hyper-inflation, devaluation, coup d’etat, protest, bond default, election, poverty, earthquake, and even papal visit, I never imagined what it would be like to cover the papal conclave in the new Pope’s country of origin. What made it even more baffling was the fact that the winner was someone we never dreamed it would be.

The day the conclave began was one when all the elements around me seemed to confirm that there was no chance of an Argentine Pope. I went to the Metropolitan Cathedral to take pictures of the optimistic worshippers, and found just one nun praying in a nearly empty church.

The next day, a phone call from a colleague shook me up. He told me that a journalist, who is notorious for always being wrong in his predictions, had said, “Bergoglio won’t be elected for many reasons.” That was when we decided we should go to the Cathedral.

Fifteen minutes before the name of the new Pope was announced, I commented to my editor that if he prepared the archive photos of Bergoglio, I would go to the Cathedral. His answer was to remain calm. “The next Pope will likely be Brazilian,” he said. In the end I’m not sure which of us was more surprised.

We immediately began searching for members of the new Pope’s family in Argentina, his old schools, and any details about his past life that might lead to historic photos.

Old photos, black & white and color, emerged from different sources, many of them in negatives for which we had trouble finding a scanner to digitize, as editors pressed us for haste.

“Thank God!” was heard from the San Lorenzo de Almagro football club. The club’s spokesman confirmed that the Pope is a member and fan of their team. That was followed by emails containing then Cardinal Bergoglio holding the jersey of his favorite team.

I naively thought that the new Pope would soon appear at his local home to pick up his belongings, but then realized that it doesn’t work that way. Whenever he does return home for the first time as Pope, there will be millions lining the streets to greet him.

Whenever that happens, we’ll be better prepared, and have a little more faith.

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