February 1

Pope Francis showed early concern for the poor

In a letter to a fellow priest, he recalls learning the importance of looking out for the neediest.

By Nicole Winfield
The Associated Press

VATICAN CITY — Even at age 13, Pope Francis was concerned for the poor.

click image to enlarge

Pope Francis waves as he leaves at the end of his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on Wednesday.


The Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano on Wednesday published a letter Francis sent to a fellow priest in 1990 in which he recounted all the things he learned during the sixth-grade year he spent studying at a Salesian school in his native Buenos Aires.

The letter is remarkable in that the then-Rev. Jorge Mario Bergoglio remembered the names of all his priestly instructors from four decades previous.

But more importantly, he remembered particular lessons, including the night in October 1949 in which he learned about death, the night he started saying his prayers before bed (and never stopped), and the depth of his adoration for the San Lorenzo soccer club.

He also recounted having learned that year certain life lessons about piety, sexual purity and what he called the “Catholic culture” and the importance of looking out for the neediest.

“I remember having learned there to deprive myself of certain things and give them to people poorer than me,” Bergoglio wrote.

Francis has made reaching out to the poor and most marginalized the priority of his pontificate, saying the church must be like a “field hospital” for the wounded faithful, ready to welcome the neediest in with mercy.

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