domenica 5 luglio 2015

(Mercedes Alvaro) They haven’t been in touch since then. But when the pope comes to this steamy coastal city Monday, he will stop in to see Father Cortés, a 91-year-old Jesuit and teacher.
“Normally, a pope is a very distant figure,” said Father Cortés, better known to people here as Father Paquito. “But with Francis, it is the exact opposite. We feel him so close, among us and one of ours in a way that few could are.”
The first thing he plans to ask the pope, he said, is, “why he wanted to meet with me? Why did he remember me? We never wrote. We haven’t spoken since 1985.”He added, “For me, it is an act of humility to remember a person who is nothing special.”
In the early 1980s, the Argentine prelate, then rector of the Philosophical and Theological Faculty of San Miguel in Argentina, got to know Father Paquito when he was sending Jesuit interns from Buenos Aires to the Javier School in Guayaquil, where Father Paquito had taught for decades.
Their last time together was when Father Bergoglio accompanied Father Paquito to the Buenos Aires airport for a flight home.
In recent months, Father Paquito and others at the Javier School, where the cleric, now retired, still lives, said that the pope had passed on messages expressing his interest in meeting again.
“How is Paquito?” the pope asked Father Paquito’s doctor, María Lorena Panchana, who had an unexpected meeting with Francis in April 2014 in Rome. “Greet him for me and tell him that I will soon be there to see him,” she recalled.
At a meeting in February at the Vatican, César Pérez, an editor at Guayaquil’s El Universo newspaper, presented the pope with a cellphone video of Father Paquito greeting his old friend. “He told me, I want to see Paquito,” Mr. Pérez recalled the pope telling him. “So I said, then you’re going to have to come to Guayaquil.”
Father Paquito, a diminutive, energetic Spaniard who arrived in Ecuador in 1947, walks around the grounds of the Javier school today with the help of a cane. He enjoys old movies about the police, reads biographies and smokes two cigars a day, he said, “with the authorization from my doctor.”
“I have a full box of cigars, unopened, in case some cardinal has a craving,” he quipped in an interview in his small, tidy room, where a wooden desk is stacked with papers, mementos and books. One of them is “The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope.”
Father Paquito, who taught history and theology, sometimes holds Mass for small groups at a small chapel near his room. And he fondly speaks of the pope and his mission of helping the poor.
“That modesty and special love for the poor—that comes from his history of immigration to Argentina, of knowing poverty and having a hard life,” Father Paquito said of the pope, whose ancestors were Italian immigrants. “That is what has allowed him to profoundly reach the heart of believers and nonbelievers, and which has made Raúl Castro, the president of Cuba, say that he reads all of his encyclicals.”
The pope has been to the Javier school, which has nearly 1,600 students from preschool to high school. In 1981, when he was training Jesuits in Argentina, the future pope stayed here for three nights as part of a visit to Ecuador.
Over the decade, he sent at least 30 Argentine students—young men training to be Jesuits—to work at Javier, which was then much smaller. Father Paquito worked with the Argentine clergyman to find a place at the school for them.
“He was very interested in seeing the place where the students would stay,” Father Paquito recalled, “and to make sure it would be an important experience in their development.”
Father Paquito said that the men met on two other occasions, the last time 30 years ago when in a coffee shop at the Buenos Aires airport, the future pope and the Spanish-born priest shared Argentine treats. Father Paquito recalled “the modesty and humility in explaining to me these Argentine things and the affection that he treated me with.”