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A journey started among the people   At the subway stop

· The Argentine Capital celebrates its archbishop now Successor of Peter ·

“It seems my brother Cardinals have gone to the ends of the earth to get me”. These are the words of Pope Francis most cited by the Argentine newspapers after the election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio to the papal throne. He had had only just become Pope before he asked the square to pray for him. In Buenos Aires for two days they have been saying so many prayers that prayers are even reverberating in the daily exchange of greetings and are altering them. In the central neighbourhood around Plaza de Mayo, right in front of the cathedral, and beside the building that until two days ago was the residence of the city's archbishop, people can be heard to say most often – when answering the telephone or hurriedly greeting one another – “we have a Pope”; instead of “good morning”. And this will continue for many days to come.

Lourdes is 50 years old, she works in one of the numerous small restaurants with which the alleys that lead to the square are strewn. “I was not expecting the news, no one was expecting it. I knew him as a Cardinal and I knew he was a very humble, very Christian man. It gives us Argentinians  immense joy, a Pope who speaks Spanish is an absolute novelty”! Alberto, a bank employee, is having his lunch break: “Argentina was first subjected to European colonization, then we suffered a financial colonization and we are still paying the debts amassed in that period. Since the 1990s life has certainly improved; but I believe that the Pope, especially this Pope, may be more effective in seeking to solve the scourge of poverty than the economic policies of the past. And I am not being ironic. Basically, the Church is the individual's soul. This can be an important factor for emerging from the crisis. The economy is based above all on trust between individuals and not only on the ability to do sums, and the hope of faith that a new Pope can spread is part and parcel of solving the crisis, they are not two separate things. I believe that society today – in which morality is of a utilitarian kind – must also see faith as something useful, in the practical sense. A spiritually depressed society is a society where people have no trust in their neighbour. And this is deleterious for the economy itself”.

A wooden panel stands at the cathedral entrance. Nailed to it with four drawing pins is a simple A4 sheet of paper, with a coloured photo of Pope Francis looking out from the Loggia over St Peter's Square. Above the photo is some writing: the ceremonial announcement addressed to the whole world and yet, interpreted from here, the announcement seems full of exclusively local pride: “ Habemus Papam ”.

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St. Peter’s Square

Sept. 20, 2019

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