Many were shocked by the election of the first Latin American pope, including his family.
Pope Francis’ sister, María Elena Bergoglio, who resides in Ituzaingo, a suburb of Buenos Aires, said she felt speechless and blessed upon hearing the announcement.
“I watched the announcement with an absolute calm,” María Elena told La Nacion in her native Spanish. “I was convinced that it wasn’t going to be my brother, and when it was announced, it was surprising, there are no words. It’s something that floored me.”
Pope Francis was born Jorge Mario Bergoglio into a humble family of five children in Buenos Aires, Argentina on December 17, 1936. His parents were Italian immigrants — his father, José Mario Francisco Bergoglio, was a railway worker, and his mother, a housewife. A nephew of the pope, José Luis Bergoglio, is also a Jesuit priest.
His sister also said, from what she knew, he didn’t even want to be pope, because he loved Buenos Aires.
“There are no words, from a faith standpoint, even less,” said the pope’s sister. “It’s something you feel within. Having a brother as pope is a blessing of God.”
Her son, José Bergoglio, nephew of the pope, told la Nacion, “I was at work monitoring the conclave on the internet, and when they said it was him, I had to sit down. I couldn’t believe it — it was total shock.”
His nephew also expressed that he can’t help but feel mixed emotions, because although he is excited for his uncle, he will miss seeing him often.
Juan Fernández Xifra, son of a female cousin of the pope, told Radio Sudamericana that when he heard the news, he called his mother and they cried together on the phone.
“The bond we have with him is strong,” says Fernández Xifra of his relative, who he calls completely transparent and accessible. “He married me and baptized my daughter. It’s an incredible feeling. He’s someone of the people, with enormous heart, grounded and very humble.”
Known for keeping a low profile in his career as a teacher, and then auxiliary bishop of Buenos Aires, Bergoglio used to spend a lot of his time counseling priests, preaching and hearing confessions. He was even known for answering the phone himself – as he found no need for a secretary.
While standing on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica after his election in the Vatican yesterday, he asked for prayers for himself and for the retiring Pope Benedict XVI — asking for brotherhood for his new family, “the whole world.”
“And now let us begin this journey, the Bishop and people, this journey of the Church of Rome which presides in charity over all the Churches, a journey of brotherhood in love, of mutual trust,” said the new pope. “Let us always pray for one another. Let us pray for the whole world that there might be a great sense of brotherhood.”
Edgar Zuniga contributed to this report.