Carol Glatz at CNS has unearthed some fascinating tidbits about the new pontiff, culled from a book of interviews published in Argentina three years ago. (It’s not yet available in English.)
– Favorite dance style: tango, which he said he loves “very much. It’s something that comes from within.” He said he danced the tango when he was young “even though I preferred the milonga,” which is an older form of tango with a faster rhythm.
– Favorite movie: “Babette’s Feast” because it shows the transformation of a group of people who took denial too far and didn’t know what happiness was, he said. The sumptuous meal helps free them from their fear of love, he said. He also likes Italian neorealism films, which often confronted the social, economic and moral consequence of World War II, but added that as archbishop he didn’t have much time to go to the movies.
– Favorite painting: “The White Crucifixion” by Marc Chagall. The scene “isn’t cruel, rather it’s full of hope. It shows pain full of serenity. I think it’s one of the most beautiful things Chagall ever painted.”
– Favorite person: His grandmother Rosa, who helped raise him when he was little, taught him his first words of Italian and passed on her deep religious sensibility.
– Favorite saint he turns to in time of need: St. Therese of Lisieux. He kept a photo of her on his library shelf with a vase of white roses in front of it. “When I have a problem I ask the saint, not to solve it, but to take it in her hands and help me accept it.”
– Favorite virtue: “The virtue of love, to make room for others with a gentle approach. Meekness entices me enormously! I always ask God to grant me a meek heart,” he said.
– Worst vice to avoid: “The sin that repulses me most is pride” and thinking of oneself as a big shot. He said when it has happened to him, “I have felt great embarrassment and I ask God for forgiveness because nobody has the right to behave like this.”
– Typical reaction to unexpected announcements: He freezes. When Pope Francis was elected pope and appeared at the central balcony, many noticed he looked rather stiff. Turns out that’s how he reacted when he was named auxiliary bishop in 1992 and how he reacts “to anything unexpected, good or bad, it’s like I’m paralyzed,” he said.
– Things he would rescue in event of a fire: His breviary and appointment book, which also contains all of his contacts, addresses and telephone numbers. “It would be a real disaster to lose them.”
“I’m very attached to my breviary; it’s the first thing I open in the morning and the last thing I close when I go to sleep.”
Photo: CNS / Paul Haring