Argentinian Catholics living in diocese overjoyed at election of pope from their homeland

By Joan Kurkowski-Gillen

Correspondent

Argentina-flag-part-2-for-WEB.jpgMary Charette knew something significant happened when she found a congratulatory message left on her answering machine. The caller phoned to say a cardinal from her homeland, Argentina, was elected leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.

“My first reaction was no! This can’t be. I’ve lived in the United States for many years now and people tend to confuse South American countries. I thought the new pope was probably from Brazil,” she said referring to Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer, who was “papabile” — a top contender.

The Arlington resident quickly turned on the television and saw crowds celebrating outside Rome’s St. Peter’s Basilica. Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the 76-year-old archbishop of Buenos Aires, was elected pope on the fifth ballot taken by fellow cardinals inside the Sistine Chapel.

“I saw them waving the Argentine flag,” Charette remembered. “Then I knew it was true and I started to cry. I never thought in my lifetime I would see an Argentine elected pope.”

Born in the capital city of Buenos Aires, the St. Maria Goretti parishioner moved to the United States in 1962 but still has strong ties to her homeland. She visits relatives in the country frequently.

“My granddaughter, Caroline, and other people called. They know this is a proud moment for me,” Charette explained.

Pope Francis is the son of working class parents who left Italy in the 1920s to escape the Fascist regime of Benito Mussolini, Charette’s Irish grandparents also immigrated to Argentina.

“There is a large community of Italians in Argentina and they are just like Italians in this country — religious and very family-oriented. They have influenced food, music, everything,” she added. “Argentina’s love of opera comes from the Italians.”

Adrian Alberino feels a special kinship with the Holy Father. Like Pope Francis, he is also an Argentinian with family roots in Italy. His grandfather was part of the huge immigration that left Italy during the World Wars.

“I was aware of Cardinal Bergoglio and his work with the poor in Argentina,” says Alberino who moved to the United States 31 years ago. “But I didn’t know he was so humble. It really caught me by surprise when he came out on the balcony and began to talk.”

The Denton resident and member of St. Mark Parish grew up in Ituzaingo, a municipality outside Buenos Aires where the new pope’s sister lives. Alberino’s parents and brother still live in the area.

“When they announced it (the pope’s name), everybody went out into the street to celebrate,” he said describing how villagers congregate near the landmark Obelisco de Buenos Aires during special events. “They think he will do good things not only for Argentina but also the rest of South America.”

Argentina is a predominantly Catholic country but many fail to practice the faith religiously, Alberino explains. The musician says he’s “up in the clouds” with expectations for the new pope.

“I think his election is going to help evangelize South America,” he continued. “I’m hoping people will start becoming more active in their parishes.”

Charette said when she lived in Argentina, there was no separation of church and state. Catholicism was the official religion.

Today, the country is more secular and socially liberal than its neighbors but the Church is still influential. Cardinal Bergoglio publicly clashed with Argentina’s President Cristina Fernanadez over legislation dealing with contraception and abortion.

“He’s a very gentle man but when these things came up, he roared like a lion,” Charette added.

The proud expatriate thinks the election of an Argentinean pope will give Latin Americans a stronger voice in the Church. She’d also like to see other changes.

“When Pope John Paul took office, the Communists were strong in Poland and by the time he died, they were gone,” she reasoned. “I’m hoping something similar happens in Argentina and the corrupt government there is run out of office.”

Mary Charette knew something significant happened when she found a congratulatory message left on her answering machine. The caller phoned to say a cardinal from her homeland, Argentina, was elected leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.

Published