Father Thomas Rosica, the English language assistant for the Vatican press office, told journalists at a hastily arranged March 13 press briefing that he talked to Pope Francis this past Sunday.
“Sunday night we were out for a walk and he pulled me over. He took me by the hand and said, 'I want you to pray for me. I’m a little nervous right now.'”
Later he told Fr. Rosica that he lived “very simply in an apartment in Argentina,” where he took care of “a handicapped Jesuit.” Pope Francis also said that he cooks for himself and rides the bus to work.
The 76-year-old is known as a humble man who denied himself the luxuries that previous Buenos Aires cardinals enjoyed.
Bergoglio regularly visited the slums that ring Argentina's capital. He considers social outreach, rather than doctrinal battles, to be the essential business of the church.
"Jesus teaches us another way: Go out. Go out and share your testimony, go out and interact with your brothers, go out and share, go out and ask. Become the Word in body as well as spirit," Bergoglio told Argentina's priests last year.
Bergoglio has stood out for his austerity. Even after he became Argentina's top church official in 2001, he never lived in the ornate church mansion where Pope John Paul II stayed when visiting the country, preferring a simple bed in a downtown building, heated by a small stove on frigid weekends.
Initially trained as a chemist, Bergoglio taught literature, psychology, philosophy and theology before taking over as Buenos Aires archbishop in 1998. He became cardinal in 2001, when the economy was collapsing, and won respect for blaming unrestrained capitalism for impoverishing millions of Argentines.
Pope Francis will be inaugurated on March 19, the Feast of St. Joseph, at 9:30 a.m. in St. Peter’s Square.
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