GUAYAQUIL, Ecuador — “Why in the world is the Vicar of Christ coming to me?” said Jesuit Father Francisco Cortés, when asked how he would receive Pope Francis when he visits him in Guayaquil, Ecuador.
The priest, who, in a few days, will be 91, was very excited about his get-together with his old friend. The occasion was set up for July 6 at the Javier School, where Pope Francis was to have lunch with his Jesuit brothers.
Father Cortés, better known as “Paquito,” was born in Malaga, Spain, on July 10, 1924, and came to Ecuador in 1963, serving since then at the Javier School in Guayaquil.
According to the Spanish-language El Universal newspaper, the priest met then-Father Jorge Bergoglio in the early 1980s, when he was the provincial for the Jesuits in Argentina and visited Ecuador, looking for a place to send his novices.
Years later, they met again, when Father Paquito traveled to Argentina for the priestly ordination of some Jesuits that he had spent time with in Ecuador.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Pope Francis saw Father Paquito’s doctor, María Panchana, in 2014 in Rome and asked her: “How’s Paquito doing? Say hi to him for me and tell him I’m going to see him soon,” Panchana recalled.
In February, César Pérez, editor of the El Universo daily newspaper in Guayaquil, showed the Holy Father a cellphone video in which Father Paquito greeted his old friend. Pope Francis told him that he wanted to see Father Paquito. The journalist replied, “Then you’re going to have to go to Guayaquil.”
The Jesuit priest has some heart problems and is in constant contact with doctors.
“They tell me he wants to talk with me. I don’t know what about. … When he was named pope, he sent me more than five messages personally greeting me. Not Father Francisco Cortés, but Father Paquito,” the priest told Agence France Presse. Paquito is the affectionate form of the Spanish nickname “Paco,” for Francisco.
He added, “For me, this is an act of humility for that man: to remember a person with no merit at all, nobody special; he’s insisted he wants to see me.”