Exploring Pope Francis' Jesuit roots in Buenos Aires

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Thursday, August 20, 2015
VIDEO: Jim Gardner explores Pope Francis' Jesuit roots in Buenos Aries
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Padre Juan Carlos Scanonne taught philosophy to Jorge Bergoglio when the future pope was a young student here.

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (WPVI) -- Pope Francis is the first Jesuit to become the head of the Catholic Church.

Typically, Jesuits are not meant to become bishops. Francis is an exception.

Francis should feel comfortable when he comes to Philadelphia. The city has long been home to Jesuit institutions.

St. Joe's University, St. Joe's Prep, and St. Joe's Church in Society Hill have helped introduce Jesuit values to our area: including love of church and Jesus, preference for spiritual and priestly ministries, and the art of making good decisions.

Jorge Bergoglio, the man who would be pope, became a Jesuit, although not yet a priest, in 1960.

It took 13 years of formation before he took his vows of papal loyalty as a Jesuit priest.

His rise was meteoric becoming the head of all Argentine Jesuits by age 36.

But his job as provincial was marked by the upheavals of Argentina's Dirty War and the split it caused among the Jesuits.

Some say Bergoglio's authoritarian style in those days made the situation within the Society of Jesus worse and he lost his leadership position.

His tenure as rector at the Colegio Maximo began a decade of exile, reflection, and a fundamental change in him, a change toward listening, dialogue, and collegiality.

We had the unusual opportunity to see Bergoglio's spartan two-room apartment from when he was rector.

A small study was connected to a bedroom, big enough only for a chest and a bed.

In his outer room which he used as an office, Bergoglio would sit and talk to a student or an official of the college, a visiting bisho,p or a cardinal to discuss matters of either personal or ecclesiastical concerns. This went on for six years in the apartment.

Padre Juan Carlos Scanonne taught philosophy to Jorge Bergoglio when the future pope was a young student here.

"He was a very good student, but not the best," Scanonne said.

When asked if back then if there was anything about young Bergoglio that made Scanonne think he would be pope, the teacher replied, "No."

OK then.

I wanted to know what from his Jesuit background did Francis bring to his papacy?

Scanonne says this is what Bergoglio told the conclave before it elected him pope:

"The church has to be missionary and no reference to himself but to the people and that was one of the reasons the cardinals had elected him," Scanonne said.

Pope Francis' Jesuit experience is marked by success and failure both, but ultimately, he learned much about himself and he became a changed person, the person we now know as pope.