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We are orphaned of a father but he is now a treasure for all

· In conversation with Alejandro Russo, Rector of the Metropolitan Cathedral of Buenos Aires ·

Federico is the spokesman of the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires. Alejandro Russo is rector of the Metropolitan Cathedral and secretary to the Episcopal Vicariate, the one who coordinates and organizes all the pastoral activities of the Archdiocese. Alejandro is the person who has been constantly in touch with Cardinal Bergaglio for years, a specialist in liturgy and ceremonial. In official photographs he is always beside him. Federico is very young but he has the face of someone who has lived as a boy in the ghetto, saved for society, like the boys whom, as Cardinal, Bergoglio was rescuing.

“Paco is the residue of processed cocaine, the part discarded when it is being made. It is mixed with toxic substances and is deadly for the young people who use it. It destroys the neurons in the brain and turns people into zombies. As Pastor of Buenos Aires Bergoglio worked in this sector too and strove to combat paco. The Cardinal used to visit these neighbourhoods on the outskirts frequently, alone, with his little suitcase. Moreover, although these quarters are lived in by humble working folk, they have an appalling reputation. The Cardinal also did very important work to fight the trade in little girls and in prostitution. Kidnapped in Peru and in Bolivia, these girls are robbed of their identity and either sold into the prostitution market or even adopted by rich families – these are the so-called “illegal” adoptions. We have been able to save some of these young women partly because of the immense investment of time and money that Bergaglio has spent on their cause”.

In the meantime let us set out for the sacristy passing through the cathedral. “In my perception of the reform, what the

Church needs today is austerity. We need a pilgrim Church, a Church which looks outside herself, which goes on mission and goes to the heart of Jesus' message. Bergaglio has all these traits. Here in Buenos Aires he is known for this, for his ongoing pastoral work inspired by Jesus' message. Bergoglio is the one who goes to speak to the city's paper collectors.  They are the people you see wandering about who look like tramps, because they are dressed in rags and tatters. They are poor and go round the city collecting paper to recycle it and earn a few pesos. Bergoglio would bring them mate, a local drink, or he would simply go up to them to comfort them, he would ask them what they needed. He always used to venture into the peripheries of the city to seek out the poor in the ghettos and districts that any normal person would tremble even only to mention.

With Bergoglio in Rome it is the Vatican spring. Before the conclave, when we were wondering what sort of Pope we wanted, we said exactly this: a Cardinal who would be as like Jesus as possible. However, I didn't believe it, I must tell the truth, I did not believe they would elect him. I thought that the papacy would go to Milan or to São Paulo, above all for reasons of age: people were saying that the Pope would be under 70. However, in spite of his 76 years, Bergoglio has an extraordinary strength, the result of constant practice in the field. Here we had already prepared all the events for Holy Week, precisely because we were all expecting his return to Buenos Aires. A friend telephoned me saying, 'I have just heard it on CNN, it says that the Pope is Bergoglio, its Bergoglio, Federico!'. I was screaming. I could not believe it!”.

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