Fr. Guillermo Marco, ex-press officer for eight years to the Pope, gave a talk at Tyburn Convent in London, and these are notes from that talk. This was on March 26th, 2013. I have tried to keep the exact vocabulary of Father Marco, who gave the talk mostly in English. Any editorial notes by me are in parentheses. I am merely reporting on this talk as exactly as I can. The text was approved by an associate of his. Some of this information is not new to readers of the Internet or news, but as news is restricted in the enclosure, much of this was new to the nuns at Tyburn.
The vocabulary reflects that of Fr. Marco. Most is a paraphrase or close to exact notes taken during the talk.
The Pope was born in Buenos Aires and studied science. He went to seminary in Buenos Aires, where the Jesuits were in charge and decided to be a Jesuit.
John Paul II made him bishop when he was a professor.
At 37, he was made superior on his congregation. He was very young and these were difficult years for the Church, after Vatican II. Priests were making political choices rather than religious choices.
An order from the General (of the Jesuits) in Rome indicated that he wanted priests who were religious not politicians. (This was a reaction against Liberation Theology.) The Pope loves working with the poor, but he is not political. The Argentinian government was not in support of the Catholic Church, but looking out for leftist priests and nuns to imprison.Two priests were working hard in the poor areas, and were moving to another area, and owing obedience to the religious, they did not want to so left the Jesuits.
"If you go out of the Jesuit Company, I cannot protect you", the superior said. They did, however. Two months later, the two priests were taken to an illegal jail; the Pope was looking for the priests, and then the two priests were made free. The Pope was not a collaborator of the territorial government, but did get these priests free. There is confusion on this in the media, who wants to show the Pope as a collaborator.
There are lies that he was a collaborator.The photo shopped photo which is on line is not true, stated Fr. Marco. (I am not familiar with this photo.)
The Pope was novice master of the Jesuit order, and he spent two months in Germany. When he came back to Argentina, his superior put him in the interior of the country only saying Mass and hearing confessions—He became Provincial Superior in 1973. The Pope told his friends that he thought he would end his life in the remote area. Apparently, according to Fr. Marco, Jesuits have to say no if Pope asks them to be bishop; however, the Cardinal told him to be bishop, he was not consulted but told 1992, to be bishop of Buenos Aires.
It is a very big city, four million, with four more million coming in for work (eight million), and no one knew him,. There are six bishops in the diocese of Buenos Aires; Cardinal Antonio Quarracino, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, who consecrated Bergoglio Bishop, was very important in this story; the Cardinal asked the Pope to make Bergoglio to be his successor.
Cardinal Quarrancino planned this, stated Fr. Marco. Otherwise, he would have been in a smaller diocese, as most of the auxiliaries would have been on the appointment of a new Cardinal.
So, this was unusual. He had a meteoric rise in the Church. Fr. Marco said this was all in God's Plan.
When Cardinal Bergoglio came to Rome for the conclave, he came with a return ticket. He is 76, and he was ready to resign as bishop when he returned. He would have been retired on his return to Argentina. Someone who knew him said that his election as Pope has made him younger and more energetic, as if energized by the Holy Spirit.
This is important, said Fr. Marco. He went to Rome with a little bag. "And he will never go back to his little room. He will not see his family in their place…his entire life belongs to the Church."
"I first knew him when he became bishop. He always asked every person he met to pray for him."
Fr. Marco asked that we would pray for the Pope daily, here in the convent.
He needs prayer, said Fr Marco. However, the priest said that the Pope is a “prayer-man” in his interior life.
"He never goes out at night and goes to bed at nine and gets up at four or five to get up and pray. He has done this his entire life." Fr. Marco was very clear in his description of the Pope's dedication to prayer.
"He never decides anything unless he prays first. If he is going to decide something, he says that he needs to pray first. He refers all things to prayer. This is his heart."
Fr. Marco, who is not a Jesuit, added something interesting. "The other thing is that the Jesuits have very clever thinking, but they only say what appeals or refers to you. One never knows what they are really thinking."
"My job with him, I always had a job with communications, and when he became Archbishop, he asked me, because he was nervous to meet with the media."
Fr. Marco described a Cardinal who worked with others in consultations. "His humility indicates that he states he does not know everything. He worked with a lot of persons in Buenos Aires because he is humble and wanted input."
As to the Pope's pastoral style, (which we have seen in the news), Fr. Marco noted that the Pope said as Cardinal, that "we have to go and find the lost lamb and not stay inside the Church (building)."
Fr. Marco shared that he works in the public university, and he had to go to the world which does not believe in God.
"We have missionaries in the railway Stations, and in the city centres, in the plazas—" He added an interesting comment on the secular world. "The majority of the population does not ask the question of what is the essence of life. First, we have to motivate the questions of God. We have the answers, but the persons do not want to receive the answers, so we have to motivate them."
On the Pope's obviously different way of relating as Pope, Fr. Marco said this, "Pope Francis presents himself as the Bishop of Rome. He does not use the title Pope as he wants to relate to the people of Rome.
He is very deliberate in his actions. He does not act on his feelings."
"He thinks about what he does before acting."
Fr. Marco indicated that the Pope wants our prayers, just as he did when he was Cardinal.
"He wants all the prayers of the Church, which is the job of the entire Church."
As to his name, the priest told the nuns what we have read in the news, "He said immediately when elected, 'Do not forget the poor.' He took the name Francis for this reason. He also took the name because of Francis being a man of peace; also because Francis is the patron saint of the environment." Fr. Marco was very clear on these points.
The ex-press secretary also noted that Francis was involved in the re-formation of the Church and that the Pope wanted Francis' name also for this reason. As to change in the Church, Fr. Marco noted this, "The Pope wants us to change first. He chooses simple things, such as a plain metal cross, because if one wears a gold cross in BA, it would be stolen immediately.He did not use his chauffeur and car", (as we know, he took the metro and bus). Fr. Marco stressed through-out his talk that the Pope has a preferential regard for the poor.
"He did not want to be separated from the people. He never made an apology to the rich for the poor. He is very near the poor."
"The poor," the Pope said, "are very near God."
The poor will teach us about God, added Fr. Marco. The Pope has many short stories about the poor, which have influenced his life. Father shared a few of these.
Asked what the people of Argentina thought of the Pope, Fr. Marco responded, "The people of Argentina are being moved by what Pope Francis is saying in Rome. Two Jewish men were interviewed by the press who said they liked this Pope." The Argentinians ignored the Cardinal when he was in his country. Fr. Marco said, referring to the Scripture passage, that a prophet is not accepted in his own town. But, now that he is Pope, the people have changed and are now paying attention to him according to Fr. Marco. The Argentinians are following his actions in Rome.
Father Marco said we are entering in to a good time for the Church, and we need to pray a lot. He replied to another question regarding ecumenism that it was easier to be ecumenical in Argentina than in Europe.
Fr. Marco and the Pope were involved in an ecumenical group in Argentina, where it is easier to have these groups. So, the visit of thePatriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople was an extension of this. The meetings in Argentina are not theological dialogues, but just getting to know each other, noted the priest. When the Patriarch was in Rome, the Pope said that he was glad “Andrew” was here, the brother of Peter. The Pope also was responsible for contacting the head rabbi of Rome, with a personal letter to him. "He is very kind," said Fr. Marco, "to all who come near him."
Fr. Marco said the Pope is not the same person but has changed since he has been elected Pope. (This is very interesting.) He said he is full of the Holy Spirit.
Mother General of Tyburn, Mother Mary Xavier McMonagle, brought up the quotation of Blessed John Paul II that the future of the Church was in Latin America. She was referring to the Pueblo Conference. Fr. Marco noted that the Latin American experience is different as a new country. (Here is a link to that Conference.)
Fr. Marco said that the Pope is like a common priest. He is still in the conclave room and not in the Papal Apartments. He will want to stay there and he is near the door, said Fr. Marco. (Laughter).
Mother General brought up the Mass in the prison on Holy Thursday. Mother General wanted to know if there were going to be consequences of this decision. Fr. Marco had an interesting insight into this : "In Buenos Aries there are six bishops, and so there were enough bishops to have Mass in the Cathedral and the Pope then decided to have Mass in a prison. He did not want journalists there when he did that in Argentina."
He had to be told by his press secretary, (Fr. Marco), not to put his light under a bushel, and therefore, give good example.
At one Holy Thursday Mass, the Pope, as bishop, washed the feet of all the new baby boys of the poor. And, this photo was published in a discussion against abortion in Argentina.
The journalists in Argentina liked this. Fr. Marco said the Pope will do lots of things like this. Mother General pointed out that Blessed John Paul II also visited a prison, especially in the visit the man who shot him . Mother also noted that Jesus spent the night in prison and was there during the night on Holy Thursday.
As Fr. Marco noted, we are in the age of the photo and the sound bite. So, the Pope uses little phrases of the Gospel in his talks as Pope. He is also aware of significant actions.
At the Mass at St. Peter, there was a representative of the people of the rubbish, the scavengers of Argentina, whom the Pope had visited when in Argentina.
As Cardinal, he was walking in his red robes and Fr. Marco wondered at this walking about in Rome before the conclave. Fr. Marco said Rome is the place where one can wear red without being noticed.
(Excuse any errors, as this was done on the spot.)