Buenos Aires Launches Pope Francis Bus Tour

The latest brainstorm in Argentina uses one of the pontiff’s favorite forms of transportation to tour high points of his life.

From the AP: 

The tour leaves out the gritty slums where Bergoglio’s church was a frequent benefactor, but there’s a nod to his reputation for ministering to society’s outcasts: a swing past the Devoto prison where he often said Mass on the Thursday before Easter.

The bus finally stops at the parish of San Jose del Talar, where visitors can pray at a sanctuary that features a painting of the Virgin untying knots and passing them to angels. Bergoglio had the painting brought from Germany in the 1980s, and ever since, attendance at the church has soared.

Less sacred ground is covered as well. The bus stops downtown at the historic Roverano passageway, where Bergoglio had a monthly haircut for 20 years at Romano’s barber shop, a high-ceilinged place that seems to have been frozen in time since the early 20th Century. But the barbers would rather not be bothered: Tourists are advised to gawk from outside as the artisans with scissors and razors work on their mostly elderly clientele.

“It’s a pride to have had Monsignor Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, as a client every month for 20 years,” says a poster stuck to the shop window.

Owner Nicolas Romano, 72, is only four years younger than the pope. He told an Associated Press team that returned for a post-tour interview that Bergoglio came to the barbershop until about a decade ago, when one of the barbers began giving him a personal trim at the archbishop’s office. An assistant also gave him a monthly pedicure.

“He was a man of few words. He spoke just what was needed, sometimes of politics or current affairs,” said one of the barbers, 71-year-old Mario Saliche.

The tour ends at the Plaza de Mayo, which is fronted by the cathedral and the office building where Bergoglio lived alone in a humble room, shunning an ornate diocesan mansion in a northern suburb. The church has not provided outsiders with access to this bedroom, despite the curiosity of the faithful.

Across the plaza is the newsstand where Bergoglio bought his La Nacion paper on Saturdays and Sundays.

“He paid me with coins and we chatted about soccer and how things were,” said Nicolas Schandor, who owns the weekend stand. He also said Bergoglio would stop to chat with war veterans occupying the plaza, and give food to the poor who slept on the cathedral’s steps. “He’s a very simple person. Nobody expected he would become pope.”

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