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New Book on Pope Francis Offers Revealing Insights and Memories from Friends and Colleagues in Argentina

Author shares interviews with those close to pontiff

Contact: Kevin Wandra, 404-788-1276

SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 15, 2013 /Christian Newswire/ -- These days there is no shortage of conversation on the thoughts and actions of Pope Francis. No matter what side of the ideological spectrum one finds themselves aligning, the Pope is sure to draw both support and criticism for the person (and Pope) people think that he is. But the best predictor of future behavior for any person is almost certainly always past behavior.

For the first time, a collection of little-known stories about Pope Francis has surfaced. Veteran journalist Alejandro Bermudez presents personal recollections from twenty individuals in Argentina who personally knew the man who became Pope Francis in the new book, POPE FRANCIS: Our Brother, Our Friend.

Ten Jesuits were interviewed for this book shortly after Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was elected the Pope. Some were his professors, some his peers and some younger Jesuits who were his students. Also interviewed for this book are non-Jesuits, including an Argentine senator, a prominent rabbi and a priest working in the slums of Buenos Aires that Bergoglio often visited.

Their remarks are focused on different aspects of the life of Pope Francis, including his family background, his abilities and his personality as administrator, friend, teacher and guide. Some of the predominant aspects of his personality to emerge are his longstanding simplicity and authentic spirituality; his concern for the individual and the poor; and his desire for the Church to go out to the street to meet the needs of the people. More controversial issues discussed include his dealing with the topic of "Liberation Theology" and his relationship with the military regime in Argentina.

Father Enrique Laje, S.J., a former professor of Jorge Bergoglio, says Bergoglio was adamantly opposed to the Argentinian government's stance in favor of abortion and same-sex marriage.

"[Bergoglio] also entered into conflict [with the Argentinian government] by defending issues like the right to life of the unborn and the unique nature of marriage between a man and a woman," said Laje. "He defended this when the minister of health was an abortionist. The Church is always going to criticize this because she is in favor of life, in favor of the Gospel and of moral and natural law. In this, the cardinal did nothing more than be Catholic."

Father Fernando Cervera, S.J., whose spiritual advisor was Bergoglio, describes the many ways in which the future pope impacted his fellow Jesuits.

"He was a person who went from giving spiritual assistance to someone to speaking on the phone with a bishop or some important person to washing clothes in the laundry or to the kitchen or where they raised the 'hogs,' as we called the pigs, and then later went back to see what was going on in the classroom -- and he was involved in every detail with each one of us," said Cervera. "At the same time, he was a person who was permanently concerned about the individual process and the personal situation of each person. Bergoglio, at this time, had a deep impact on our formation because he was very demanding about our studies, our spiritual life, and our community life."

Father Angle Rossi, S.J, a former student of Bergoglio and now the superior of the Residencia Jesuita community in Córdoba, said Bergoglio was best known for his immense mercy toward others.

"I have to say that the priest Bergoglio has a very great sense of mercy," said Rossi. "Bergoglio is capable of forgiving what one might not be able to forgive himself. I have always said that whoever hits bottom, whoever it may be, in Bergoglio he will find shelter, and it continues to be like that today. This is true for whoever it may be, from your best friend to your worst enemy.

"In front of more weakness, Bergoglio works better, in a strange spiritual equation, so to speak. So if I would have to single out only one thing that always remains with me ... it is his sense of mercy. Very few times have I seen mercy at the depths to which he lives it, and it does not consist in allowing anything whatever to happen, but, rather, in taking charge of the hearts of others and suffering and enjoying life with others. And he brought this to the other person with a very refined charity, a charity of gestures."

Francesca Ambrogetti, an Italian journalist and co-author of the pope's biographical book, EL JESUITA, recounts Bergoglio's sensitivity for the neediest.

"Someone asked me what would be the quality that I would most highlight; it is difficult to decide on only one, but one is his sensitivity, his attentiveness to the other person, his listening, being sensitive to what the other person needs," said Ambrogetti "He worked a lot in prisons, something that is not very well known. He went to hospitals a lot; he went to the retirement homes; he went to the priests' retirement home to visit them; they were alone, and he went to visit them. He stands out for always having approached the neediest."

For more information, to request a review copy or to schedule an interview with Alejandro Bermudez, please contact Kevin Wandra (404-788-1276 or KWandra@CarmelCommunications.com) of Carmel Communications.