Pope’s ‘love letter’ comes true

Pope’s ‘love letter’ comes true

Pope’s ‘love letter’ comes true

Pope Francis, the newly elected leader of the Catholic Church, takes part in his first mass inside the Sistine Chapel. The pope has warned the troubled Catholic Church that it risks becoming little more than a charity if it fails to undergo renewal. ABACAPRESS photo

“If I don’t marry you, I’ll become a priest.” They didn’t get married. He became a priest. And on March 13, he became the pope.

According to a bespectacled, white-haired woman identified only as Amalia, Pope Francis wrote those words to her in a letter more than sixty years ago, when they were just 10 or 12 years old. “In the little letter, he had drawn a little house with a red roof and white walls and, and he wrote, ‘this house is what I’ll buy when we get married,’” the woman remembered, standing on the sidewalk in the Flores neighborhood where they were both born. But the seemingly innocent promise was taken very differently by Amalia’s conservative parents, who were scandalized their little girl was receiving notes from boys.

“I have nothing to hide, it was a thing of children,” Amalia insisted decades later as reporters and television cameras swarmed. Nevertheless, her parents tore the letter up and did whatever was necessary to keep their daughter away from the young Jorge Bergoglio, and their courtship was over before it began. Bergoglio, archbishop of Buenos Aires and Primate of Argentina, was elected to be pope. He is the first man from the Americas to hold the post.

Maria Elena Bergoglio, 12 years the junior of the 76-year-old pontiff, said he never wanted to be pope and now faced a lifetime of “infinite loneliness.”

Risk of becoming NGO

“He didn’t want to be Pope and when we chatted privately about it, we joked at the prospect and he would say ‘no, please no’,” she told British daily Telegraph. Meanwhile, Pope Francis has warned the troubled Catholic Church that it risks becoming little more than a charity with no spiritual foundations if it fails to undergo renewal. He told the cardinals on March 14 that the Church could “end up a compassionate NGO.”

“If we don’t proclaim Jesus, we become a pitiful NGO, not the bride of the Lord,” he said in his first mass, in the hallowed surroundings of the Sistine Chapel. “When we walk without the cross and when we preach about Christ without the cross, we are not disciples of the Lord. We are mundane. We are bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, but we are not disciples of the Lord.” He warned cardinals against “the worldliness of the Devil.”

“Walking, building and confessing are not so easy. Sometimes there are tremors,” the pope said, in a homily that will be scrutinized for clues to the style of his leadership. “What is certain is that it is a great change of style, which for us isn’t a small thing,” Sergio Rubin, Francis’s authorized biographer, told The Associated Press.

Rubin said the new pope “believes the church has to go out into the streets,” to stand alongside the people it serves rather than imposing its message on a society that often does not wish to hear it.
Rubin also said he expected to see more changes, even substantive ones, once Francis finds his footing. “I think the categories of progressive and conservative are insufficient,” Rubin said.

The Vatican revealed that, for the ride back to the conclave lodgings after the election, Francis shunned the papal limousine with the “Vatican City State One” number plates and instead boarded a minibus with the cardinals. It was in keeping with his image as a man who, as archbishop of Buenos Aires, chose to live in a modest apartment rather than the official residence and took buses to work. The new head of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics has paid a heartfelt tribute to his predecessor Benedict XVI on March 15, saying his faith and teaching had “enriched and invigorated” the Catholic Church and would remain its spiritual patrimony forever.

Compiled from AP and AFP stories by the Daily News staff.