The Priest Who Baptized Jorge Bergoglio, the Future Pope

At his Wednesday Audience on November 13, Pope Francis, continuing his catechesis on the Creed, spoke about the sacrament of Baptism.  He looked at the three main elements of the proclamation:

  • “I confess” – The first words, said the Holy Father, are a “solemn declaration” which “highlights the importance of Baptism and affirms our identity as children of God.”  He noted that in the sacrament, our faith is also linked to the remission of sins.
  • “one Baptism” – The word ‘baptism’ literally means immersion, the Pope explained.  Through this process, we are “immersed spiritually in the death of Jesus Christ and we rise with him as a new creation.”
  • “for the forgiveness of sins” – The third part of the proclamation teaches that “Baptism forgives original sin and personal sin.”  Regenerated by water and the Holy Spirit, we are illuminated by grace which dispels the darkness of sin.

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Who is the priest, I wondered, who baptized the young Jorge Bergoglio, the future Pope Francis?  Here is his story:

A young Jorge Bergoglio in sixth grade

Father Enrico Pozzoli was a young Salesian priest from the province of Lodi, in Italy’s Lombardy region.  As a young man, Father Pozzoli was sent by his Rector Major, Father Rua, far from his hometown of Senna Lodigiana, near the Po River, to serve as a missionary in South America.  There, he served in Argentina, where he lived from 1906 until his death in 1961.  It was Father Pozzoli who baptized Jorge Mario Bergoglio on Christmas night in 1936, in the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians in Buenos Aires.  Surely, he never knew that on that night, he was bringing into the Church a future pope!

But Father Pozzoli’s relationship with Bergoglio did not end with his baptism.  He was an important role model for the future pope.  During his youth, probably in the year 1949, Bergoglio attended sixth grade at a Salesian school in Argentina, the Ramos Mejia Salesian College (Collegio Wilfrid Baron).

Father Pozzoli was the person who, when Bergoglio was 17 years old, encouraged him to travel to the mountains of Tandil, south of Buenos Aires, to recover from the serious respiratory infection which had left him with only one lung.

In 1982, the future pontiff remembered Father Pozzoli in the prologue for his book Meditations for Religious.  According to the Italian newspaper Il Cittadino, Archbishop Bergoglio called the priest “an example of ecclesial service and religious consecration”, underscoring “the great influence he had on his life.”

Father Enrico Pozzoli, spiritual mentor who influenced the young Bergoglio, passed away October 20, 1961.

UPDATE: A homework assignment from Pope Francis!

  • Maggie Goff

    I have to find my baptismal certificate. I’m pretty sure that it was within days of my birth, September 13, 1945. I’m the oldest and all of my siblings were baptized within a week, if not less. My father was still in Burma, a medic with the Army.

    • Mary Kelly

      i was born in Belfast on 19th of july 1949 and was baptized on the 20th of july 1949

  • Judith77

    I was immersed when I was twelve at a local church. The wood came off the stage area. The small pool was under it. It was an amazing day. I have since converted to Catholicism. It was the start of my journey.

  • Manny

    It makes me want to look up the priest who baptized me. I guess it’s on my baptism certificate. I shall have ask my mother.

  • Brad Miner

    Congrats for getting picked up by The Catholic Herald in editor Luke Coppin’s “Morning Must-Reads.”

    • kathyschiffer

      Thanks– I saw that! :)