One of the last masses celebrated by Jorge Bergoglio in Buenos Aires. It was on Rivadavia Avenue, in the Flores district, in front of the parish of Lourdes. (Hernán Bernasconi)

“Tear your heart, and not your garments, and return to the Lord your God; for he is merciful and merciful, slow to anger and great in mercy, and grieved in chastisement. (Joel:13)

The resignation of Pope Benedict XVI was announced on February 11, 2013. by the same pontiff in the Clementine Hall of the Vatican to the cardinals present there, to enter into force on the 28th of this month. The news shook the world and not just the Catholic world. It had been over 700 years since such a thing had happened. The information arrived at the office of the Archbishop of Buenos Aires two days before Ash Wednesday (02/13/2013), but this circumstance did not change the program for that day.

In the neighborhood of Flores, the Archbishop presided over the evening Holy Mass in memory and in homage to Saint Bernadette, the young girl who had the apparitions of the Virgin Mary in Lourdes, France from February 11 to July 16, 1858. It was at 6 in the afternoon at an improvised altar on a platform, in the middle of a street, a few meters from the parish of Our Lady Immaculate of Lourdes and a few blocks from the house where Jorge Mario Bergoglio , whom no one could have suspected would be the next pontiff and successor to Ratzinger, was born 76 years ago.

The last “street” mass of the father george -as his friends and acquaintances call it- was only recorded by journalist Alicia Barrios of the Crónica newspaper and by this columnist who carried a camera with which he captured the accompanying images. The nothing unusual event of the Mass, however, went unnoticed by the rest of the national press. Photos can be seen in our note titled Bergoglio and a Mass in Flores, 30 Days Before He Becomes Pope.

May God and Our Lady make you Pope, Bergoglio!

Some three hundred people attend in an atmosphere of devotional enthusiasm heightened by the presence of the archbishop, which does not happen every day. It was dusk and the ceremony proceeded normally until an unexpected cry was heard. A black-haired woman, well-to-do from the neighborhood, in the first moment after the end of the mass, cried out in a clear and strong voice: “May God and Our Lady make you pope, Bergoglio! Many of us wonder, is she crazy? and then she disappeared… and she could not be identified, but we saw her and she is photographed leaning on the railing which served as a separation between the parishioners and the altar.

Speculation in the local press about the Pope’s succession

The Argentine media did not believe, or did not want to believe, and neither did the government, in the likelihood of calling our cardinal to sit on Pedro’s throne, a fact which, far from being ruled out , was considered for coverage by various European media of the time, such as the Handelsblatt or the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung from Germany.

The last message of Lent from Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio

Before the end of the month of Lent began.

Lent for Christians is the forty days from Ash Wednesday to Easter when we celebrate Christ’s victory over sin, death and evil. They commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Exodus of the Jews to Egypt. It is considered an auspicious time for conversion or reconversion.

Ash Wednesday begins to remind us that our life on earth is fleeting and our ultimate life is in heaven. From this recognition of our finitude and the affirmation of our faith and far from all pride, we are more predisposed to “see” the reality with which we live. It’s a stop on the mountain and like waking up from the top.

A homily which -unfortunately- continues to enjoy great validity

Reviewing those days preceding the trip of the Cardinal from Buenos Aires to Rome, we reread his homily on the occasion of the beginning of Lent on Wednesday, February 13, 2013, in which, among other considerations, he describes the reality that he “sees “and with whom we have lived. , and in which – extremely aggravated in all its negative dimensions – we Argentines continue to be submerged.

The drama of violence

The reality “of the drama – says Cardinal Bergoglio in his 2013 homily – (which) is in the street, in the neighborhood, in our house and, why not, in our hearts… the violence that kills, that destroys families, stir up wars and conflicts…”

Envy, hatred, slander and worldliness

In his last Lenten homily as Archbishop of Buenos Aires (he invites us to see this) “we live with envy, hatred, slander, worldliness in our hearts,” feelings rooted in many locals of this land.

The innocent who suffer, contempt for the rights of the most fragile individuals and peoples

“The suffering of innocent and peaceful people keeps slapping us; disregard for the rights of the most vulnerable people and the peoples are not so far from us”.

The empire of money, drugs, corruption, human trafficking

“…the empire of money with its demonic effects such as drugs, corruption, trafficking in human beings – even children – as well as material and moral misery are commonplace;”

Destruction of decent work, emigration for lack of a future

“The destruction of decent work, painful emigration and the lack of a future also join this symphony.”

Our Mistakes and Sins as a Church

“Our errors and our sins as a Church are also not left out in this great panorama. The most personal egoisms justified, and not for that lesser; “

The lack of ethical values

“…the lack of ethical values ​​within a society that metastasizes in families, in the cohabitation of neighborhoods, towns and cities, informs us about our limitation, our weakness and our inability to transform this innumerable list of realities destructive.

Let’s get to work: fast, pray and help in community

This is why this time of Lent is always a time of conversion or reconversion, to resume our relationship with God, to confess our errors and our sins and “see” the reality that must be changed, we must act which consists of fasting , prayer and help but not in solitude, not egocentric, but open to others, in us, in community. It’s not about becoming someone (simply) impeccable, virtuous…

…because “there is no virtue if in what you do you do not benefit others”

In his homily, Cardinal Bergoglio said that “No act of virtue can be great if it does not also benefit others…So no matter how much you spend the day fasting, no matter how much you sleep on the hard ground, and eat ashes and sigh continually, if you don’t do good to others, you don’t do anything great. (Saint John Chrysostom).

Today the Pope, in this coming Lent, invites us to do something like “a mountain excursion”

Today the Bishop of Rome and Head of the universal Church invites us in general, all of course, in Lent which begins next Wednesday 22 to do something like “a mountain excursion” overcoming our resistance to following Jesus. The Pontiff writes that “we must allow ourselves to be led by Him into a desert and high place, away from mediocrity and vanity”.

“It is necessary – says the Pope – to undertake an upward path, which requires effort, sacrifice and concentration, like a hike on the mountain” and invites us not to make the ascent alone but with Jesus and the others, to follow a synodal path (with the others, in assembly, the clarification is ours).

“As in any demanding mountain excursion, during the ascent it is necessary to keep your eyes fixed on the path; but the magnificent panorama that unfolds at the end surprises and is worth it. (Vatican News, February 17, 2023).

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