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World-famous Argentinian writer Borges impressed by Pope Bergoglio’s charisma 50 years ago

by Carlo Marroni

Two great Argentinians crossed paths many years ago. One was still unknown to the world but already oozed charisma, while the other was an immensely popular writer at the time: Jorge Mario Bergoglio and Jorge Luis Borges.

The story of their encounter was recounted by Rogelio Pfirter, who since February has been serving as Argentina’s ambassador to the Holy See and who is also a friend and former student of Professor Jorge Mario Bergoglio, back in the time when the current Pope was a young 28-year-old teacher at the Colegio de la Inmaculada Concepción in Santa Fe, Argentina.

Pfirter recalled that one time the future Pope invited Borges, one of the greatest writers of the 20th century, to meet up with his students. Borges would later reveal that he was impressed with the young Jesuit.

In an interview with Max Mizzau Perczel, Rogelio Pfirter recalled when for two years, from 1964 to 1965, young Bergoglio was his literature and psychology teacher: “He taught a course in creative writing and one day he invited Borges to meet the students.”

The famous writer (1899 - 1989) “then 66 years old, took a bus from Buenos Aires and traveled all night, uncomfortably sitting for 10 hours, spent two and a half days with the students at the Colegio and rode the bus back,” said Pfirter.

The future Pope Francis “conceived, curated and edited a book of unpublished short stories selected by Borges among the stories written by the students.”

Two of the published stories “were penned by me. Borges wrote the preface to the book,” said Pfirter.

Ten years later, in 1975, Pfirter “met Borges again in New York, and on that occasion the writer told him about the extraordinary human experience with the students of the Colegio, saying how wonderful it had been to live among young people, and how spending time with the students had enriched and inspired him, as they shared their thoughts, their life stories, their curiosity and spontaneity toward life, the future and the world,” said Pfirter.

“Borges also said he had been impressed by the charisma, intelligence and humility of young Jesuit teacher Bergoglio.”