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In the footsteps of Jorge Bergoglio

'The pathways of Pope Francis' in Buenos Aires Province

23 January, 15:41
In the footsteps of Jorge Bergoglio (By Francesca Ambrogetti) (ANSA) - Buenos Aires, January 23 - Some of the places that testify to the intense relationship between Buenos Aires and Pope Francis are located outside the capital, in the western part of the province of the same name. This is deepest Argentina, although it is not yet 'the end of the world' in the country's southernmost tip.

The provincial authorities have drawn inspiration from these sites to put together a new tour in view of the first anniversary of Jorge Mario Bergoglio's election as Pope in March.

The tour - called 'The Pathways of Pope Francis' - encompasses seven locations that have played a key role in the Argentinian pontiff's life. The most important is the "Colegio Maximo San Josè" in San Miguel, where Bergoglio studied philosophy and then theology during the 1960s before going on to become vice-rector, novice master and theology lecturer in the 1970s and then finally rector from 1979 to 1985; under his rectorship he set up a library dedicated to Saint Teresa of Jesus as well as having two chapels built and another two restored in the area.

The visit to the college takes in the rector's office and residence, the gardens and the cemetery of the Jesuit province, which now extends across Argentina and Uruguay.

Bergoglio paid frequent visits to the college's large patio, crossing it via a path known as the 'walk of the platans'. "I remember that period very well," says Juan Berli, the current rector. "Bergoglio would wash the dishes and also do the laundry in a huge washing machine. He would pay frequent visits to the infirmary and was forever walking up and down the building.

Always in his typical style, with great austerity and commitment". Other sites on the tour include the salubrious highland areas in the Tandil hills frequented by the pope when he was less than 20 to treat lung problems; Ramos Mejia, where he attended the Salesian college of Wilfrid Baron de los Santos Angeles and first felt his vocational calling; and Los Polvorines, one of the many places where Bergoglio worked close to people in a parish.

Then there is Ituizangò, a large working-class neighbourhood in the capital and home of Maria Elena, the pope's sister; and finally Lujan, the site of the basilica and sanctuary dedicated to the Madonna: last year, around 2.5 million people visited it during the traditional pilgrimage weekend. Many of the visitors were spurred by the 'Francis effect', which remains strong in Argentina: according to one recent study carried out by the sociologist Marita Carballo, 65% of the population now has a positive opinion of the Church compared to the former 56%, while nine out of 10 Argentinians have a positive opinion of the pope from Buenos Aires.