Priest says Pope's election bearing spiritual fruit in Argentina

Father Marcelo Pettinaroli, pastor of Our Lady of Carmen in Buenos Aires, said the election of Pope Francis has brought rich spiritual blessings to the country of Argentina.

"There are more people coming to confession, the churches are full, and I think that this is a time of special grace for the universal Church and for the Church in Argentina," Fr. Pettinaroli told CNA in a March 19 interview.

While the faithful in Buenos Aires miss their bishop greatly, he added, "we feel that he is present among us, and everything that he always said he is now repeating…from the Chair of Peter."

Fr. Pettinaroli, who is also the former director of the Introductory Home of the Seminary of Buenos Aires, recalled the Pope's dedication to prayer and the priests of the archdiocese during his time as cardinal.

Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio – who is now Pope Francis – visited the seminary often and "would spend his vacation week in Montonera, where the seminaries spent their vacations," he said.

The Holy Father, he continued, "has told the seminarians numerous times what his prayer life is like, and they would ask him about his life."

In addition to being close to the seminarians, Fr. Pettinaroli said that the Pope always showed great care for priests, including the retired.

The Holy Father "is a person who listens to you intently and then says just the right words," he explained. "He has great discernment and would always give you a word of encouragement."

"He is a man who likes to get up very early to pray because he has an intense time of prayer. He goes to sleep early so he is able to keep this prayer life and that's why he doesn't like social gatherings," the priest said.

The Pope "is a very spiritual man who knows how to look at everything through the eyes of faith," Father Pettinaroli continued. "He is very dedicated and simple, he tries not to stand out and he stays quiet. He can spend hours in a meeting without participating in any way, just learning and watching what is happening."

He recalled that the future Pope "was totally unknown" when he was named Auxiliary Bishop of Buenos Aires, but that "in no time all the clergy came to love him."

As bishop, he would always make time to meet with those who needed to see him, the priest said, noting that "he was very accessible to us."

He also noted the Holy Father's dedication to the needy, saying he would always devote special time to visit the poor areas of Buenos Aires.

Each year, he would also consecrate the entire city to the patroness of Argentina, Our Lady of Lujan.

Regarding media accusations that the Pope was complicit with Argentina's dictatorship in the 1970s, Fr. Pettinaroli said the Holy Father is "irreproachable." 

"They have always tried to pin that on his past, and there has never been any concrete proof of anything, it's always been a lie," he said.

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