Slow Food founder connects with Pope Francis

Slow Food International founder Carlo Petrini recounts a personal phone call he says he got from Pope Francis, above.
(Gregorio Borgia / Associated Press)

Is Pope Francis a Slow Food-er?

It sounds possible, given the conversation the organization’s founder, Carlo Petrini, says he had recently with the new pontiff. Petrini had sent the pope a copy of his book “Terra Madre,” a tribute to small farmers around the world.

Writing on the Slow Food International blog, Petrini says: “Around 7 pm I saw that I had a phone call from a blocked number. I answered, curious; and on the other end of the line I heard a by-now familiar voice saying: ‘This is Pope Francis. I received your book and your letter, and I wanted to thank you.’ I was amazed and delighted by a subsequent conversation with someone who felt like a friend, thanks to our common connection to Piedmont and his affection and esteem for the humanity of Terra Madre, the network of farmers, fishers, nomads and food artisans that meets in Turin every two years.”

According to its website, Slow Food International is “a global, grassroots organization with supporters in 150 countries around the world who are linking the pleasure of good food with a commitment to their community and the environment.” Petrini founded the group in 1986 to protest the opening of a McDonald’s restaurant near Rome’s Spanish Steps.


Petrini says that during their conversation the Argentine-born pope recounted his family’s ties to Italy’s Piedmont area, where Slow Food International is headquartered.

“My parents moved to Turin from the countryside around Asti, opening a small café in a building on the corner of Via Garibaldi,” he quotes Francis as saying, before they emigrated to Argentina. “My father was supposed to board the Mafalda, but then, because of some problems, he had to postpone his departure for a year.” The ocean liner Principessa Mafalda was sailing to Buenos Aires when it sank off the coast of Brazil on Oct. 25, 1927. Hundreds of migrants drowned in the ocean waves.

Petrini said he and the pontiff also talked about the farming world. “Pope Francis wanted to emphasize how precious the good practices of rural communities are to the world’s destiny. On this subject in particular, the pope had strong words: ‘The work of these people is extraordinary,’ he said. ‘Accumulating money must not be the primary goal. My grandmother used to tell me that when you die, your shroud has no pockets for money.’”

Petrini says the conversation had a profound effect on him. “I have been an agnostic since I was young, but the absence of religiousness has not stopped me from sharing experiences and struggles with men and women of faith. I do not have the capacity or the knowledge to open a deep and learned dialog on the question of faith, but I know that if humanity wants to escape the desert of ideas that surrounds it, people who know how to communicate like Pope Francis will be of great value. Even the channel he uses, the telephone, with no mediation, is a sign of openness and directness, with the interlocutors as varied as the motivations and the topics. One has the impression they are talking with a friend. And so our phone conversation ended, with wishes of good health and a mutual embrace. A world in which one can fraternally embrace a pope is truly a beautiful world.”

The Vatican has not confirmed the conversation.


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