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10 things you didn’t know about Pope Francis

As Pope Francis, born Jorge Mario Bergoglio, visits the country this week, here are some facts about the 266th Pope from his early life to his rise to the Papacy:

1. He was deeply fascinated by a girl while in the seminary

While still the archbishop of Buenos Aires, the then Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio said as a young seminarian he had been dazzled by a girl he met during his uncle’s wedding. He stated that after the wedding he was unable to pray for over a week as the image of the girl kept popping up in his mind until he had to make a choice.

He added that celibacy is “a matter of discipline and not faith” and not every priest is able to make the decision, further urging those who fall into the trap to just quit priesthood instead of living a double life.

2. He was once a club nightclub bouncer

The Pontiff was once a bouncer at a nightclub in his native Argentina and also swept floors before he joined the seminary. His vocation to be a priest came unexpectedly as he passed by a church on his way to meet friends, but even after he joined the seminary he never stopped serving.

In the 1980s then known as the Reverend Jorge Bergoglio, he did laundry for the priests he had been tasked with the responsibility of leading at a Jesuit seminary. Jesuits are a group of Roman Catholic priests and brothers who are otherwise referred to as Soldiers of Christ. The Jesuits have a vow to live in poverty and chastity in obedience to Christ and the Pope.

3. He only has one lung

As a young man, Jorge Bergoglio had an infection that led to the removal of one of his lung. Aged 21, he was diagnosed with pneumonia and two cysts that eventually led to the removal of the lung. Although doctors have said the lung deficiency is not a threat to his health, the Pope often has back problems and avoids engaging in strenuous physical activities.

4. He was a frontrunner in the 2005 conclave that made Pope Benedict XVI

In the 2005 conclave, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio emerged a runner’s up to the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger who went on to become Pope Benedict XVI. According to reports in Italian media, he impressed cardinals in the pre-conclave “general congregation” meetings where they discussed problems facing the Church. Although he lost votes during last round of the election, it was reported that he begged the cardinals not to elect him opting to continue with his cardinal work.

5. He worked as a laboratory technician

Jorge Bergogolio has a título in Chemistry. In the Argentine education system, a título is earned after an extended secondary program and is equivalent to a diploma in our local education system. Jorge Bergoglio graduated in chemistry from the Escuela Técnica Industrial No. 12, which is a state-run technical secondary school. He worked as a technician in the food section of an Argentinian laboratory before joining the Jesuits.

6. He is fluent in four languages, but English is not one of them

Pope Francis is fluent in his native Spanish, Italian, German, and Latin, the official language of the Vatican. He has also addressed crowds in clear but heavily accented English, French, Portuguese and Ukrainian. It is therefore likely that he will make most of his addresses in English while in Kenya and maybe occasionally have a translator.

7. He stays at Vatican guesthouse

After he became Pope Francis, he refused to move into the luxurious and spacious papal apartments and opted to stay in the Vatican guesthouse where he stayed during the 2013 conclave that saw him elected as pope. He has always stressed that he wants a poor church for the poor and urges priests to live simpler lives, perhaps an explanation why he relinquished the papal apartments.

8. He has never watched TV since 1990

Pope Francis has never watched television since July 15 1990 when he made a promise to the Virgin of Carmen (Our Lady of Mount Carmel). In order to remain informed, the reads one newspaper in the morning, Italian daily La Repubblica and does not even visit internet sites.

9. He is a football fan

Pope Francis supports San Lorenzo, an Argentinian football club based in his home town Buenos Aires. Since he does not watch TV thus unable to follow live matches of his favorite team, he relies on Swiss Guards, a team of trained soldiers who guard the Pope, for updates on match results.

10. He loves his sleep

Pope Francis is usually in bed by latest 10pm and wakes up without the help of an alarm clock at 4am to meditate and pray before the morning mass. Whenever he is not travelling, he takes an afternoon nap of about 40 minutes, a practice he says helps him recharge.