The Catholic University of America

March 19, 2013

Economics Lecturer Blessed by then-Cardinal Bergoglio, Now-Pope Francis


Alejandro Cañadas' children celebrate the election of an Argentine Pope.

On the morning of his birthday, Alejandro Cañadas, a lecturer in the School of Business and Economics, tuned in to live coverage of the papal conclave on EWTN Global Catholic Network.

Wouldn’t it be great to celebrate a birthday with a papal election, he thought?

Not only would Cañadas’ birthday wish come true, but by that afternoon he would feel even more blessed as he learned that Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, archbishop of Cañadas’ native Buenos Aires, was elected Pope.

“When they announced his name in Latin, I was frozen,” Cañadas says. “Did I hear them correctly? Did they say Bergoglio? I was so moved I started crying.”

Cañadas was born in Buenos Aires and lived there until 2000. He is from the neighborhood of Flores, a middle-class barrio in the center of the city. He grew up about six blocks from the childhood home of Cardinal Bergoglio. His sister received the sacrament of confirmation from the cardinal.

In Flores is the Basilica of San Jose de Flores — dedicated to St. Joseph. Cañadas says Cardinal Bergoglio would often celebrate Mass there, particularly on the feast day of St. Joseph, March 19 (coincidently, the same day of the Mass marking the beginning of his Petrine Ministry as Bishop of Rome).

As an adult, Cañadas worked in a company called Telefonica located 2 blocks from the Plaza de Mayo downtown. He would walk to attend daily Mass at the cathedral, where he would sometimes see Cardinal Bergoglio.

In a photo supplied by the lecturer, Cardinal Bergoglio washes the feet of the poor in Argentina.

In 1993, Cañadas and his wife, Cynthia, worked as missionaries to the poor outside of Buenos Aires. Cardinal Bergoglio blessed the couple before they left for their month-long mission. Cañadas’ wife still has the small wooden cross pendant the cardinal gave her before that trip.

Cañadas researches development economics focusing on poverty and inequality as part of the business school’s Integral Economic Development Management program. He has always looked up to the man who is now Pope — not because of any “extraordinary” things, he says, but because of his ordinary humility and willingness to work with the poor.

“Bergoglio loved to come and celebrate Mass with the poor,” he says. “He was always humble, coming on public transportation. I always admired how much he spoke out in defense of the poor. And he would celebrate Masses in the slums.”

Cañadas hopes the election of Pope Francis is a sign of renewal for the Church not only in Latin America, but also around the world. He believes the election of a Pope from Latin America may encourage Latin Americans who were falling away from the Church to “come back to the grace of God.”

“The message he is sending is of a Church that has to be closer to the Cross of Christ,” he says. “A Pope from Latin America is going to renew the Church, especially in the Americas.”



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