Fresh light on Fr Bergoglio

Pope Francis: Life and Revolution, by Elisabetta Piqué

foreword by Cardinal Seán Patrick O’Malley OFM Cap.

(Darton, Longman & Todd, £9.99)

A whole literary industry has sprung up around Pope Francis. Waves of books have appeared, and many more are in preparation. Most of these so far have attempted to explain the phenomenon we are witnessing from our European or North American perspectives. The best of these is the Austen Ivereigh biography The Great Reformer, backed up perhaps by his earlier, though now unavailable book, Catholicism and Politics in Argentina, 1810-1960 (Macmillan/St Antony’s College Oxford, 1995).

But Dr Ivereigh is English. The author of this book, which for many will prove to be an important adjunct to his biography, is an Argentinian journalist. A graduate of the Catholic University of Buenos Aires, she has travelled widely as a foreign correspondent, also covering Italy and the Vatican for Argentina’s main newspaper. So she brings a special perspective to her biography of the Pope that is well worth reading. 


Bergoglio has long been a close friend of her family. He is the priest she knew for so long as Padre Jorge, so this is a well-informed book with a special perspective.

She opens with an account of his election and its surprising result. But she then moves back to explore the Latin American, or rather the Argentinian, background. Among the countries of South America Argentina has special features, special social realities, which have shaped the Pope. Drawing on over 75 wide-ranging interviews she explores this territory, little known to many in the northern hemisphere.

But this fills only the first half of the book – she then moves on to deal with his activities since he was elected Pope. She addresses, too, the challenges he faces, which are very great, if we are really facing into something of the nature of a new Reformation.

The Pope sees himself, in his own words, as “a shepherd who wants  to walk in the midst of his people”. This implies a direct relationship, one of response and love, especially with the poor and deprived, which has caught the attention of the world, the admiration of many, and (it has to be admitted) the dismay of those content that things should remain the way they were.

She travelled with the Francis on his first overseas trip as Pope, to Brazil. This visit was itself symbolic: the dominance of Europe in the Church, it seems, is at an end. Other values, other experiences, perhaps values and experiences more relevant to the 21st Century, are now coming to the fore. They will mean great changes. But in embracing a Gospel renewal, the Pope is only reviving the true source, as he sees it, of both faith and salvation.

This is a very readable book. Whereas Ivereigh’s book is the work of a scholar, this is the engaged creation of a first class journalist. By its nature perhaps a very personal first report, it will certainly enlighten its readers through its very different perspective on the Pope, on the world, and on the possible future.