Pope Francis: Just Another Italian

March 18, 2013

The media is calling him the first "non-European" Pope in 1300 years and the first "Latin American" Pope ever, and Latinos and Hispanics in the U.S. are starting to identify with him as a fellow "minority" and "one of us". His name may be Jorge, he may speak Spanish, and he may have been born in South America, but his ancestry is 100% Italian and the country he's from isn't very representative of the region.

But the first Latin American pope also represents a cultural bridge between two worlds — the son of Italian immigrants in a country regarded by some as the New World colony Italy never had. For many Italians, his heritage makes him the next best thing to the return of an Italian pope.


It remains unclear whether even Latin Americans will respond with newfound energy to Bergoglio's ascension to the throne of St. Peter. Among many of its neighbors, Argentina is seen as a nation apart — a country that fancies itself more European than Latin American, with many likely to see the rise of an Italian Argentine as largely unrepresentative of the region as a whole.

"Argentina is so secular today, a more Eurocentric Latin country," said Joseph M. Palacios, a specialist in religion and society in Latin America at Georgetown University. "They are Catholic by culture but not by practice. Geopolitically it makes sense in terms of bridging Europe to Latin America or the Third World, but Argentines don't see themselves as being Third World."

Anthony Faiola. "Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, known for simplicity and conservatism". The Washington Post, March 13, 2013.

Pope Francis
Parents Regina Maria Sivori
and Mario Jose Bergoglio

Back: brother Alberto Horacio, Francis, brother Oscar Adrian, and sister Marta Regina.
Front: sister Maria Elena, mother, and father.