After the man once known as Jorge Mario Bergoglio was chosen to become Pope Francis, old friends and neighbors in Buenos Aires emerged with stories of the pope in his youth.
Amalia Damonte, 76, said she received a love letter from Bergoglio when they were 12.
“He told me, ‘If you don’t marry me, I’ll become a priest,’ ” Damonte told reporters. Her parents broke it off, displeased she was getting such attention from a boy.
“Lucky for him, he didn’t marry me, and there he is now, as pope!” Damonte told La Nacion.
Former classmate Nestor Carabajo told the Argentine newspaper Clarin that Bergoglio was “militantly religious” around the age of 14 or 15. But the two would also chat about soccer and kick the ball around.
Another childhood friend, Osvaldo Dapueto, told Clarin that Bergoglio was constantly studying once he started his training as a novice, passing by the plaza where they played soccer on Saturdays to greet them before returning to his studies.
“We used to get together to play ball, but he was almost always with his books,” Rafael Musolino told La Nacion.
One of the nuns who shepherded the young Bergoglio through the De la Misericordia school didn’t remember him being so serious. Sister Martha Rabino told Agence France-Presse that the youngster she recalled was a “little devil, very mischievous, like every boy.”
She marveled to the AFP, “Who would have known that he would become pope?”