TURIN, Italy — Pope Francis, during his two-day trip to Turin, visited his relatives and his ancestors’ parish. His father, an Italian emigrant to Argentina, was baptized in Turin.
On June 21, the Pope made a short visit to St. Teresa, where his grandparents were married in 1907 and his father was baptized. He kissed the baptistery, recalling his grandparents and praying for families and the upcoming synod on the family, leaving behind a sheet of paper with brief reflections on the importance of the family.
The following day, he met with six of his cousins and their families, some 30 persons in all. He said Mass for them in a chapel at the residence of the Turin archbishop, after which they had lunch together.
Pope Francis’ grandfather hailed from Portocomaro, a small town less than 45 miles southeast of Turin. The family settled in Portocomaro in the first half of the 18th century, when one of their ancestors bought the only house in the town.
In 1906, Giovanni Angelo Bergoglio, Pope Francis’ grandfather, moved to Turin looking for better opportunities, where he met Rosa Margherita Vassallo. The two were married Aug. 20, 1907, and the following year they baptized their first son, Mario. In 1929, they moved to Argentina.
The Bergoglios first settled in Parana and then moved to Buenos Aires. There, at a Salesian oratory, Mario met Maria Regina Sivori, and they were married in 1935. Jorge, their first son, was born the next year.
Pope Francis was profoundly influenced by his grandmother Rosa. During his June 21 Mass, he quoted from the Piedmontese poem Rassa Nostrana by Nino Costa, which Rosa had taught him in the local dialect.
He has also mentioned his grandmother in his homily for Palm Sunday in 2013 and in homilies at his daily Masses.
Rosa was a very religious woman, nurtured in the stimulating cultural environment of Turin. Her religiosity was filled with the example of the saints of social action, as many Catholic associations for women were flourishing in Turin while she lived there.
In her spiritual testament, Rosa wrote: “May my grandsons, whom I gave the best of my heart, have a long and happy life. If one day pain, sickness or loss of a dear one will fill them with affliction, may they always remember that a breath in front of the tabernacle, where the greatest and important Martyr is secured, and a glance to Mary at the foot of the cross, can leave a drop of balsam on the deepest and most painful wounds.”