The Untold Truth Of Pope Francis

It’s not always clear just what exactly a pope does, but many people seem to agree that the incumbent, Pope Francis, looks pretty great doing it. Per Biographythe man born as Jorge Mario Bergoglio has done the majority of his pre-papal life’s work in his native Argentina and holds the distinction of being both the first South American pope and the first Jesuit one. 

By the time he was elected to take over the Holy See in 2013, he had already developed a solid street cred as a humble, down-to-earth man of the people, and he’s very much carried this salt-of-the-earth over to his papacy. If he can get away with it — which he can, what with being the pope and everything — you won’t catch him in the opulent regalia he’s entitled to (per Garage). Instead, he eschews his predecessors’ more expressive wardrobe in favor of more muted fare that Vatican tailors have been known to call “papal athleisure.” All in all, he seems like the kind of guy who’s doing his level best to match the papal name he chose after the noted charity-focused Italian saint, St. Francis of Assisi (via Encyclopedia Britannica). 

Francis’ tenure as the pope has been an interesting and eventful one so far, and as you might imagine, the less-known aspects about the pontiff’s life are no less fascinating. Today, we’ll take a look at the untold truth of Pope Francis. 

Pope Francis used to work as a nightclub bouncer

Popes tend to be fairly elderly and, as such, aren’t exactly known for their physical prowess. However, when you look at Pope Francis outside the papal context, he’s a fairly broad-shouldered guy who looks like he might have been pretty strong in his younger days. As Newsweek tells us, this might very much be the case — at least, judging by the fact that when Jorge Mario Bergoglio was a young man, he financed his studies by working as a nightclub bouncer in his home town, the Argentine city of Buenos Aires. 

While it’s hard to imagine the gentle Francis standing stone-faced at the door, eyeballing the line of party people — let alone hauling drunken revelers toward the exit in a choke hold — this gem of a fact about his early profession leads to the enticing prospect that back in the day, some citizens of Buenos Aires were removed from the premises after having a few too much by none other than the future pope. If nothing else, having a story like that in your back pocket would make you an instant winner at any family gathering. 

Pope Francis had part of his lung removed

Being one of the most famous leaders in the entire world and guiding the Catholic Church is no easy feat, and as Time notes, Pope Francis plays the game on extra-difficult mode on account of having only one fully functional lung. A chunk of his right lung was removed when he was young, and when he became the pope in 2013, it was reported that this happened when he was a teenager, presumably due to some infection or another. However, it was noted that the only real adverse effect was that he has less lung capacity than the average person. 

In 2020, Francis addressed his lung issue in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, per CBS. The picture he painted of the health scare of his youth was significantly more grim than one might imagine. He was 21 when he ended up in a ventilator after a misdiagnosis, and his right lung had to be drained of some 34 ounces of fluid before part of it had to be removed altogether. The struggle, he says, nearly killed him. “For months I didn’t know who I was, if I would live or die, even the doctors didn’t know,” Francis described the ordeal. “I remember hugging my mother one day and asking her if I was about to die.” He thinks he wouldn’t have survived without an experienced nurse, who adjusted his dosage behind the doctor’s back. 

Pope Francis released a pop rock album

Look, there’s really no way to hype up the following information more efficiently than just bluntly stating it — Pope Francis, as Rolling Stone reports, released a pop rock album. That’s right up there with that time when Christopher Lee randomly starting a heavy metal career, as unexpected, yet strangely awesome things go.

Of course, Francis didn’t give you a bunch of chart-topping, radio-friendly songs about love and loss with his dulcet tones slowly building toward a power chorus. He is still the pope, after all. The 2015 album Wake Up! is a far stranger affair, and as Pitchfork tells us, it actually leans toward progressive rock. The peculiar collection of tunes — that have names like “Wake Up! Go! Go! Forward!” — contains a number of the pope’s speeches in various languages, embedded in an assortment of curious musical tracks, many of which come courtesy of Tony Pagliuca of the 1970s prog-rock band Le Orme.

As Pitchfork’s reviewer opines, it’s all very strange and not always musically impressive. Yet, the very fact that the Vatican set out to release something like this instead of more classic ecclesiastically themed pope record fare speaks volumes of the kind of pope that Francis is.   

Pope Francis is a huge fan of tango

Pope Francis might come across as a more laid-back guy than your average pontiff, but you might still have a hard time imagining him tearing up the dance floor. Yet, by his own admission, the pope is a big fan of dancing, and according to the Catholic News Agency, he sees it as a pretty essential extension and expression of a person’s happiness. “I liked to be together with other children, playing…dancing our typical dances from Argentina,” he has said of his fondness of dancing as a child. “I had a lot of fun.” 

In his teenage years, the future pope became fond of tango, and according to the BBC, this carried over well into his adult years. “I love it,” he enthused about the dance some years before he became the pope. “It’s something that comes from deep within me.” 

The pope’s love of the dance has not gone unseen by the people. When Francis turned 78 in 2014, the celebrations involved a huge tango event at St. Peter’s Square, where hundreds of dancers turned up. 

Pope Francis used to be a chemist

Pope Francis is quite obviously a man of religion – the man of religion, as it happens — but as Forbes notes, he has a surprisingly solid background in science, as well. Back in the day, when he was still young Jorge Mario Bergoglio, he studied in a technical school and received a chemical technician certificate. According to Timehe has also worked as a chemist.

Though the pope eventually entered the ranks of priesthood and doesn’t appear to have pursued his early scientific interests further than that, it is pretty cool that the guy in charge of the Catholic Church has a decent understanding of at least one field of science. To be fair, though, National Catholic Reporter notes that the pope’s scientific credentials aren’t quite as impressive as some people think. Around 2015, media outlets reported that Francis has a master’s degree in chemistry, when the diploma he has is actually a título – an Argentine rank that stands somewhere between a high school diploma and a university degree. 

Pope Francis loves soccer

As Bleacher Report tells us, Pope Francis is very, very fond of association football. Perhaps fittingly to his humble character, the pope’s favorite club is the oft-struggling Argentine Premier League-side San Lorenzo, and he’s even said to hold a club membership card. “He says he lives in a permanent state of suffering for San Lorenzo,” fellow supporter Oscar Lucchini has stated. 

On occasion, the pope has found ways to incorporate his favorite sport to his papal duties. As Sports Illustrated tells us, Francis has held many meetings with soccer notables over the years and amassed a bunch of personalized team jerseys in the process. Still, though he’s met notables like Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona, his love for San Lorenzo prevails. Per Rome Reports, in 2016 he gave an audience to players from his beloved San Lorenzo and AS Roma, the biggest club in Rome, before the teams met in a charity match — and couldn’t resist the opportunity to jokingly dunk on Roma by giving them some San Lorenzo merch. 

Interestingly, Francis is far from the first pope to have a warm relationship with soccer. His predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, was a huge fan of the German club Bayern Munich, and his predecessor John Paul II actually played the game himself as a young man.

The Pope and food

Being one of the most influential people around, you’d expect the pope to be able to eat just about anything he likes. Per NPR, though, Pope Francis is very much not a “caviar and quail’s eggs” type of guy. Instead, he has a history of preferring simple fare like salad, chicken, and soup, and though he has been known to partake in the occasional coffee or glass of wine, he generally keeps it pretty simple. 

Before he ascended to the papacy, he was also known to cook his meals himself instead of resorting to kitchen staff. Though his current job has him wearing clothes that decidedly aren’t chef’s whites, his attitude toward food and dining has remained pretty easy-going. As The Washington Post tells us, he has even turned up at the Vatican’s employee cafeteria and had lunch at the same table with the workers, making chitchat and even posing for photos.  

Though Francis does tend to keep it simple, it doesn’t mean that he doesn’t like to treat himself every now and then. NBC News reports that he misses being able to pop out for a nice pizza, and according to TMZ, doctors have actually told him to cut back on pasta and other carbs. 

Pope Francis doesn't watch TV

According to NBC News, July 15, 1990, was a significant date in the life of Jorge Mario Bergoglio, because this was the last day he watched television. Though the pope presumably has better things to do than keeping up with the latest reality shows in any case, he reportedly went as far as outright promising the Virgin Mary to abstain from that point on and hasn’t strayed since. In fact, that’s not the only small screen the pope has decided to avoid. Though ABC News reports Francis has called the internet “a gift from God,” notes that he doesn’t personally use it at all, and that he generally avoids most media — though he does allow himself 10 minutes with the Italian newspaper La Repubblica as part of his morning routine. 

While it’s unclear precisely what show or life event caused him to swear off the small screen, it quite likely wasn’t sports. The decision to avoid TV has brought one significant downside to Francis’ life. Since he’s located in Vatican and his beloved soccer team, San Lorenzo, is in Argentina, it’s hard for him to keep up with their antics without television. However, Francis has reportedly devised a handy workaround to this problem. Apparently, a designated member of the Swiss Guard keeps up with San Lorenzo’s games and informs the pope how the team is doing. 

Pope Francis lives in a tiny apartment

The Vatican is a pretty impressive place, but that doesn’t mean the pope lives in a massive palace. Oh, he has a bunch of pretty awesome dwellings at his disposal, but according to the BBC, Pope Francis made it clear early on that he isn’t about to live in the Apostolic Palace, where the luxurious papal apartments make up the top floor. Instead of the glorious dozen-plus rooms with a great view, he was content to move to a comparatively humble two-room apartment in the Domus Santa Marta building near St. Peter’s Basilica. This is something of a habit of him, actually. Back when he was the archbishop of Buenos Aires, he also elected to stay out of the local Bishop’s Palace in favor of leading a more modest existence. 

The apartment arrangements, as America Magazine notes, was only the beginning of Francis’ fight against his right to live in excessively palatial places. He was also quick to inform everyone that he wouldn’t spend his summers at the pope’s lavish summer palace, Castel Gandolfo. When the lack of papal presence caused a slump in the local economy, he reacted by turning the palace into a museum. Still, though the area gets by without regular visits from the pontiff, some of the locals would be cool if the profitable tourism business closed down, if it meant that the papal visits to Castel Gandolfo would resume.

Pope Francis has a complicated relationship with selfies

As The Washington Post notes, Pope Francis has become notable for being the kind of pontiff who doesn’t shun from a selfie. From teens to newlyweds and random acquaintances, many people have managed to add a selfie with a smiling Francis to their collection. Still, while the pope may be game to pose and smile, America Magazine tells us that Francis’ personal opinion of selfie culture is rather less glowing. In 2018, he discussed an event where he met young people from an international program. “They were all there waiting for me,” said Francis. “When I arrived, they made noise, as young people do. I went to greet them and only a few gave their hand. The majority were with their cellphones (saying), ‘photo, photo, photo. Selfie!'”

While the pope seems to fully realizes that this is the game, and the many selfies he’s smiled for show that he does very much know how to play, it doesn’t mean that he particularly likes it. This isn’t just an “old man doesn’t understand the youth of today” situation, either. Instead, Francis feels that selfies are part of the “virtualized” lifestyle, which can potentially alienate kids from others and cause them to lose touch with the real world. “We must make young people ‘grounded’ in the real world; to touch reality without destroying the good things the virtual world may have because they are useful,” the pope has said. “This is important: reality, concreteness.”

Pope Francis is a climate change activist

As Vatican News and America Magazine report, one of Pope Francis’ greatest interests and biggest concerns is the subject of climate change. He communicates with world leaders about the issue and doesn’t let anyone forget the fact that the people who the situation hurts the most are the often the ones with the least amount of power to do anything about it. “The effects of the ongoing pandemic and climate change —which are relevant not only for the environment but also for the spheres of ethics, society, economics, and politics — weigh most heavily upon the lives of the poor and vulnerable,” he said in a 2020 message to the United Nations.

This isn’t just some random hobby the pope picked up during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, either. As The Guardian tells us, in 2019 Francis went as far as to declare what he called a “climate emergency,” calling action in no uncertain terms. And it goes even further than that. In 2015, The Washington Post reported that the United States presidential candidate Rick Santorum was busy criticizing the pope … because the pope was busy addressing the climate change issue. All in all, Francis seems to pay a lot of attention to this particular earthly matter. 

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