Argentines recall pope's humility (and soccer abilities)

A photograph of a young Jorge Bergoglio, who would grow up to be the future Pope Francis.
CBS News

(CBS News) BUENOS AIRES - Pope Francis saw his new quarters Friday. The seal was broken and the door to the papal apartment was unlocked. It had been closed off when Benedict retired.

Also on Friday, a photo was released Francis offering to pay his bill at his hotel in Rome. The new pope is known for his humility and CBS News went to his home parish in Buenos Aires.

Seven miles from the bustling downtown sits a quiet tree-lined street in the neighborhood of Flores.

533 Membranilla Street has become the city's newest tourist attraction. It's where Jorge Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, was raised.

A new house sits there now, but the courtyard remains largely as it was.

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Osvaldo Devries was friends with Bergoglio's younger brother. Devries visited the family often. And at a nearby park, he played soccer -- or football as its known here -- with the future pope.

An early photograph of Jorge Bergoglio, who would later become the newly-elected Pope Francis. Friends from the neighborhood where he grew up remember his soccer abilities and humility.
CBS News

"I remember Bergoglio reading almost all the time," recalled Devries. "Sometimes playing football. Not well." He later said with a smile: "Not well player."

Bergoglio's ability did not dampen his enthusiasm for the sport. Pope Francis is a longtime fan of the San Lorenzo soccer team.

Sister Martha Rabino, mother superior at Our Lady of Mercy, said Bergoglio's faith first took root here. She said he always kept this place close to his heart.

"He used to come to have a cup of tea with the sisters," she told us, "and he was so humble. He would pick up his cup and go and wash it himself. He was a brother."

As cardinal, he sometimes said Mass in grand, ornate spaces, like the city's metropolitan cathedral. But he also embraced more modest churches, like Our Lady of Mercy.

Rabino was overjoyed to see Bergoglio's elevation:

"What an honor," she told us. "I saw him happy because it is the will of God. And he is there for rebirth for the church."

On Sunday, there will be a special Mass of celebration at the cathedral. On Tuesday, the day of Pope Francis' installation, church bells throughout the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires will ring for 10 minutes at noon to mark the occasion.

  • Elaine Quijano

    Elaine Quijano was named a CBS News correspondent in January 2010. Quijano reports for "CBS This Morning" and the "CBS Evening News," and contributes across all CBS News platforms. She is based in New York.

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