Minnesotans from Argentina feel ‘blessed’

| Susan Klemond and Dave Hrbacek | March 21, 2013 | 0 Comments
A man waves Argentina's flag as Pope Francis celebrates his inaugural Mass in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican March 19. CNS photo/Paul Haring

A man waves Argentina’s flag as Pope Francis celebrates his inaugural Mass in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican March 19. CNS photo/Paul Haring

When Pope Francis first appeared on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, Alejandra Hall was surprised to recognize a fellow Argentinian who used to regularly celebrate Mass and hear confessions at a cathedral located a few blocks from her childhood home in Buenos Aires.

“When they announced it was him, I was so shocked, but I was so happy because he is a good and holy man,” said Hall, who has lived in the United States for 25 years and is a parishioner at St. Agnes in St. Paul. Hall has never met Pope Francis personally but said her mother has.

While Pope Francis was a strong candidate during the previous conclave, he didn’t receive the same attention at this one, Hall said.

She emphasized the new pope’s contact with regular people, noting that while living in a small apartment in a diocesan office building in Buenos Aires — instead of the palace-like residence reserved for the cardinal — he cooked and cleaned for himself.

“I think this is not just special for me because he is from Argentina,” she said. “It’s because he’s good for the Church. It’s a victory for everybody. I think he’s going to be a wonderful pope.”

As further evidence of Pope Francis’ involvement in ordinary life, Hall told of a woman waiting to cross a busy street in Buenos Aires who expressed surprise at seeing then-Cardinal Bergoglio standing next to her. He responded, “Well I’m going to the pharmacy across the street. One of my priests is sick and I’m going to get him some medicine.”

Right leader at right time

Viviana Sotro, who came to the United States from Argentina in 2002, said it was a special day for her and fellow Argentinians.

“I was in shock at first. I wasn’t expecting a cardinal from Argentina to be our next pope,” said Sotro, who serves as executive director of Sagrada Familia Apostolate at St. Stephen parish in Minneapolis.

“I feel blessed,” she said. “I feel that, being from Argentina, I have a bigger commitment now, and I’m sure that our pope is feeling the same way.”

Sotro, 41, is from Rafaela, a small town in the middle of the country.

She and husband Adrian have four children, two of whom were born in Argentina.

“Even though we live in this country, I’ve been following what’s going on there,” she said. “In Argentina, like in many other countries in the world, the government is trying to push same-sex marriage and abortion.

“We were so happy to see Cardinal Bergoglio standing up firm with our Church’s beliefs on those topics and defending the Church’s positions.”

Sotro said she believes Pope Francis is the right leader for this time in history.

“He’s a humble person, and I think the name that he has chosen, Francis, says a lot about how he is, and how much the world needs to go back to God and forget about materialism,” she said. “That’s what St. Francis was all about.”

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Category: Welcome Pope Francis