The Priest Who Baptized Jorge Mario Bergoglio

‘I Made the Pope a Christian,’ Book that Remembers the Salesian Missionary Who Formed the Holy Father

Baptized Jorge Mario Bergoglio
Cover of the book 'I made the Pope a Christian' © Vatican Media

“I Made the Pope a Christian” is the biography of Father Enrico Pozzoli, the Salesian missionary who in 1936 baptized Jorge Mario Bergoglio, today Pope Francis, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and followed his vocation to the noviciate.

Who educated Jorge Mario Bergoglio as a Christian? Who influenced the spirituality of the future Pontiff? Who marked profoundly, with his word and example, the Christian formation of the Argentine Pope? In the book Ho Fatto Cristiano il Papa (I Made the Pope a Christian), published recently by the Libreria Editrice Vaticana (LEV), journalist Ferruccio Pallavera answers these questions, drawing a biographic profile of Father Enrico Pozzoli, the Salesian missionary of Lodi, who baptized Jorge Mario Bergoglio. Pozzoli was his teacher and Spiritual Father for several years and was a great friend of the family, directing young Jorge Mario’s religious vocation to the Society of Jesus, states a LEV note.

“When Pope Francis learned that I was writing a book on Father Pozzoli, he had the courtesy and great kindness to invite me to his home, Casa Santa Marta, in the Vatican, and he took time to tell me personally his memories and spiritual debt to Father Pozzoli. On several occasions he spoke in public of his gratitude to this Salesian priest, who embodied Don Bosco’s spirit: great dedication to the ministry, innate affection for young people, a tireless worker, always good-humored and ready to joke,” said Pallavera.

On several occasions, Pope Francis praised Father Enrico Pozzoli as his spiritual teacher and guide in his human growth. “He was a great apostle of the Confessional,” he said to thousands of young people, gathered in Milan’s San Siro Stadium on March 25, 2017, during his visit to the Lombard capital.

Ferruccio Pallavera’s book will be presented in Rome on Friday, November 12 at 6:30 pm at the Pontifical Urban University. After the greetings of Leonardo Sileo, Rector of the Urban University, and of Lorenzo Fazzini, responsible for LEV’s publication of the book, the following speakers will take the floor: Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples; Lorenzo Guerini, Minister of Defense and former Mayor of Lodi; and Angel Fernandez Artime, Major Rector of the Salesians. TV2000 journalist Monica Mondo will act as Moderator

Here is the Holy Father’s Preface to the book, offered by “Vatican News.”

* * *

 Everyone who had a problem went to him [Father Enrico Pozzoli], with that certainty he’d do everything to help. People also went to Father Pozzoli when they needed advice.

Father Pozzoli had a sense of reality. And when something unusual happened, he had a special way of expressing himself. He would put his hand on his head and scratch with his five fingers, saying: ”Good heavens …! This was his only gesture of impatience. He was a man of great common sense, which he demonstrated in his numerous counsels to people. So he was much appreciated by all.

He spent hours and hours in the Confessional and, with the passing of the years, he became a reference point for all of Buenos Aires’ Salesians and for the neighboring communities. He did the same with many diocesan priests. He also went periodically to hear the confession of the Sisters of Mary Help of Christians. He was really a great confessor.

[After deciding to be a priest, the first person with whom Mario Bergoglio shared his decision to enter the Seminary was his father, in 1955]. I knew that he would understand me more than my mother. In fact, he was immediately enthusiastic. My mother didn’t have the same reaction. She told me I would have to give much thought before taking that decision, that it would be better for me to finish University and graduate.

[Two years later, Bergoglio had a serious health problem] It was August of 1957. I began to feel shooting pains in my right lung. The pain didn’t stop. My health collapsed. I was taken urgently to the hospital; I was very weak, to the point of being unable to stand; they put me on a stretcher” [he was running the risk of a pulmonary infection, so they removed the upper part of his right lung].

[When Bergoglio told Pozzoli, a Salesian, that he intended to become a Jesuit, Father Pozzoli shared my decision and did not suggest that I join the Salesians instead of the Society of Jesus. He always respected my choice; he was not the kind of priest that made proselytes. He made inquiries and told me that the Jesuits would receive me in March. This was in November. He added that it would not be suitable for me to stay at home during those four months. I also needed to recover physically due to the operation I had undergone which was very taxing. So he went directly to his Superior, the Salesian Inspector of Buenos Aires, and explained my situation to him