FRANCIS WHOM WE DO NOT KNOW
Authors of this book, unusual in many respects – Agnieszka Gracz and Adam Sosnowski – last year they were standing in the rain at the Basilica of St. Peter. Together with other journalists from other countries, they were waiting in suspense for the result of the conclave. The new pope fascinated them at the moment of appearing in the Loggia of Blessings. Later they were watching each of his pronouncements, trying to understand them through the prism of the Argentinean identity of Francis. However, they knew that unless they did not go to the homeland of padre Bergoglio, they would not understand it fully. For, there is an old truth that: in order to get to know the man, first one must get to know his roots.
We remember that last year, just after the election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio a pope, there appeared books widely defined as his biographies. In fact they were either interesting river interviews with the metropolitan of Buenos Aires or books composed out of his few archive photos, including the first photos and the content of speeches of the Holy Father. At that time, in media there appeared much false information and gossips which somehow started to form a stereotype of ‘the pope from the ends of the world’. Chase after sensational news and attempts of contrasting Benedict XVI – who resigned from his papal office – with Francis, made the things worse. It caused a situation that media started their competitions, racing with one another in manipulations of papal contents of speeches and gestures. So, it is good that on the first anniversary of the pontificate, in Poland a biography appeared, which is objective and very detailed – ‘Francis. A real story of life’, written by Polish authors, who had rejected media opinions and decided to reach to the very sources.
AgnieszkaGracz and Adam Sosnowski – two young and ambitious journalists made a fascinating but, sometimes, a dangerous journey following the steps of Jorge Bergoglio, pope Francis. In the introduction to the book the write: ‘We spent weeks on talks with the sister and the niece of pope, as well as his cousin, friends, students and teachers, priests, assistants, a spokesman, cooperators. We met with the bishop Garcia in an elegant centre of Buenos Aires, and with Fr. Charly in gloomy slums. We saw both the beauty of the Argentinean capital city as well as terrifying dangerous image of districts of poverty. Trying to give an answer to the question: who pope Francis really is, we found out where and how Jorge Bergoglio had lived. And he was brought up and functioned in a completely different world than the European one. Therefore also in Vatican he behaves in a different way’.
Thanks to this journey, the authors of the book felt what it meant to go out to the poor – but poor people in a different way than in Europe, they got to know the Argentinean metropolis at the dusk, where nearly in every part the homeless of cartoneros inhabit every part of the city, and they saw a manifestation of the famous heroic Mothers from the May square, whose children and or grandchildren have not been back home for years – they disappeared without any sign…Journalists saw the family house of the Bergoglio family in the district of Flores, they were in the building of Curia where the bishop had lived, and later the cardinal Jorge Bergoglio and they also were in many other important places. Therefore they could, for example, correct media news, that the archbishop of Buenos Aires had allegedly lived in a block of flats, cooked for himself, had not had any personal Secretary and had dealt only with the poor, neglecting his ministry among other believers of the diocese.
The book ‘Francis. A real story of life’ is, as it befits a biography, a chronological story. It starts with a story of grandparents and the Pope’s father who came from Piemont, from where they emigrated to Argentina in 1929, and finishes with the last events of February 2014. The authors quote many facts from the life of the Holy Father. How did the ‘career’ of Francis start at all? It started quite unusually and mysteriously: as a 17-year-old boy Jorge Bergoglio, driven with a sudden impulse, entered the basilica of San Jose de Flores in Buenos Aires and there, after a meeting with a priest unknown till today, decided that he would also become a priest. And who knew that just before the conclave Benedict XVI, who had already resigned from his office at the Holy See, had been having a long talk with cardinal Bergoglio? The authors give answers to many questions, correcting many wrong opinions about Francis. A definite value of the book is richly outlined historical, geographical and social backgrounds in which padre Bergoglio lived and functioned – without considering them it is difficult to understand the current Pope.
A great value of the thoroughly original book are also photos – both the archival ones from the Bergoglio family collection and resources of the curia in Buenos Aires, as well as the ones made by the authors of the book during their stay in Argentina or during the first year of the pontificate of Francis.
I think that after reading this rich biography of pope Francis many of us will feel grateful to the authors for their effort that they have made this journey to the ‘end of the world’ also on behalf of us. It is easy to agree with their conclusion that ‘our Church has been in such a moment that this Pope ‘from the end of the world’ is ‘an excellent election’. And we must thank to the publishing house ‘Biały Kruk’ that it is continuing its editorial papal mission, that it did not stop at our beloved John Paul II, that it is steadily showing the continuity of the teaching coming to the world from the throne of St. Peter.