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Those humble women in Bergoglio's heart

· Tweet for domestic workers and caregivers ·

A Tweet by Pope Francis on Tuesday morning, 19 July, calls for gratitude for caregivers, a category of people dedicated to serving others, the elderly, especially those who are alone: “May we be always more grateful for the help of domestic workers and caregivers; theirs is a precious service”. 

The Pope brings his attention back to caregivers, after dedicating a moment to them in his reflection after the Angelus on 15 June, when he said: “Today a special thought goes out to domestic workers and caregivers, especially those who support the elderly and non self-sufficient people. Often times we do not appropriately value the great and important work they do in the family. Many thanks to you”.

Tuesday's Tweet is related in a particular way to the human story of Jorge Mario Bergoglio, “the man who became Pope”, whose memories of youth continue to be inlaid, day by day, like little gems in a mosaic that is being designed.

From the very first moments of his ministry as Bishop of Rome the Pontiff has helped us get to know him through his references to key events in his life. Certain figures – such as his most beloved grandmother Rosa, without a doubt the most-often referred to; his sweet and understanding mother Regina, always attentive to the upbringing of her five children; and his father Mario, the tireless worker – have become familiar to a great number of people. Then the long line of friends, which many includes priests, but also many cartoneros – some of whom were guests of honour at the inaugural Mass of his Pontificate – and then the poor, the sick, the elderly and also the prisoners with whom, as he himself has revealed, he continues to be in frequent contact.

One surprise, even before that of the caregivers, was his recollection of the laundry woman, a Sicilian widow, who helped his mother Regina with the housework. He shared this with journalist Pablo Cavo of the Argentinian newspaper El Clarín, who interviewed him for the weekly Viva at 500 days of his Pontificate. A memory which bears witness to his affection for a humble person known in his childhood, and whom he met again as adult and priest, then accompanied to death “serene, with a smile on her lips”.

Today Pope Bergoglio's heart still remains profoundly marked by that encounter. So much so, he said in the interview, there is never a morning that he wakes or an evening that he goes to sleep without kissing the medal given to him by that laundress during her final days.

Now the “story” about that medal is added to the crucifix, taken from the rosary that Fr José Aristi, a Sacramentine priest who served his whole life as a confessor in Buenos Aires and who died in solitude, held in his hands crossed over his body as he lay in the casket. “That cross – he confessed to Roman parish priests during a meeting last 6 March – I put here in my pocket. A pope's shirts don't have pockets, but I always carry a little cloth bag here, and from that day until today, that cross is with me. And when I have a bad thought about any person, my hand comes here, always. And I feel grace! I feel that it's good for me. How good is the example of a merciful priest, a priest who draws close to the wounded...”.

Mario Ponzi

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