Although he was not very well-known to the 1,200 million Catholics in the world, Pope Francis was always just another neighbor in many of the darkest slums in the outskirts of highly populated Buenos Aires, capital of Argentina.
As a journalist and advisor in communication, I had many opportunities to know the man who became Pope Francis, and I was one of the privileged journalists to interview and chat with Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who just liked to be called Padre Jorge Mario.
I was also blessed with the chance of going to walk around many poor places where the miserable considered Padre Jorge Mario - now the Pope of the poor - as one of them, especially in Easter.
Instead of staying in the comfortable residence assigned to him in central Buenos Aires, Bergoglio came to hospitals to wash the feet of kids infected with HIV or to the forgotten areas of the city to give his support and love. It was very hard even for the people he trusted the most to get access with a camera, because Bergoglio did not want to show off while he was healing, both physically and spiritually, his brothers in pain.
Bergoglio also preferred to ride the bus or subway rather than use a limo or a taxi. He likes to drink "mate," a typical Argentine hot drink which is somehow called "green tea" by non-Argentines, where you have to share a metal straw with the people you are with. Though some people think is not quite hygienic to do so, he offered or even asked any humble person he met to share a "mate" with him.
He is also a fan of a very popular soccer team called San Lorenzo, and as member of the Jesuits he lives and teaches austerity and humbleness in all of his life acts.
It is said, and that was also my perception in one of my interviews with him, that Bergoglio did not want to be Saint Peter's man on Earth, and that he would rather prefer to be a loyal God servant in any other position. And I also think that this is his greater strength: the authenticity of his heart and his tremendous will to do the best for the Holy Church and getting the changes that will be a breath of fresh air for the Catholic people around the world.
No matter what could come against him, I believe he will prevail in getting the job done. Somehow Argentina is well-known for being a great producer of excellent commodities: meat and soy are among them. Now we can also be very proud of exporting people that shine in their profession or their role in the world, such as Lionel Messi, who may be the best soccer player of all time, now playing in Barcelona; Manu Ginobili, star player with the San Antonio Spurs; Princess and nearly Queen of Holland, Maxima Zorreguieta; and now the leader of the Catholic Church of Rome, Francis, the Pope of the slums or simply a man of God, that simple, that great.
Alejandro Sangenis is a journalist and communication advisor in Buenos Aires. His website is www.alejandrosangenis.com.