It was a mystery that would surface every so often: Where was Pope Francis really born on December 17, 1936? Various “sources” maintained that his childhood home was located at Calle Membrillar in the Flores district. However, there were some lingering doubts: Jorge grew up in that house, yes, but where is actual proof that he really was born there? Thanks to the research of Daniel Vargas, a historian from Argentina, the mystery has been solved.
Now, we know that Jorge Mario Bergoglio was born in a house located at Avenida Varela 268 on December 17, 1936, a few meters away from the house in Membrillar. It is a small, single-story residence, which is painted white these days.
My Pope delves deeper into this mystery and the interesting twists and turns it took before it was solved.
Also Read: Happy Birthday, Pope Francis!
A Euphoric Mistake
When Pope Francis was elected as the new leader of the Catholic Church, scholars and journalists began reconstructing his life by looking up documents and meeting the people around him. That’s when they identified the house in Membrillar, which has become a tourist destination in Buenos Aires. It is also the highlight of the “Circuito Papal,” the tour bus that brings visitors to places linked to the Holy Father.
But Daniel, the historian who corrected this mistake, was somehow not totally convinced. He began his research soon after the Pope’s election. “Some witnesses immediately identified the address at Membrillar, so that ended up in all the various biographies. In the general euphoria, however, nobody noticed that it could have been a mistake,” he explains.
Daniel began collecting as many documents as possible while writing his book, The Baptism of Pope Francis. Most important was the discovery of the Pope’s birth certificate, where it clearly states that “Mario Jose Francisco Bergoglio, 28 years old, certified that he witnessed the birth, in his house, of his son, Jorge Mario on 17 December 1936.” The record also shows the name of Regina Sivori, the Pope’s mother.
In November 2013, Pope Francis received the research. The historian relates, “In a great act of humility, Francis phoned me twice in my office, encouraging me to go on, but most of all, to provide new detailed information.” With that, Daniel discovered the truth and submitted his work to the Council of Historical Studies of Almagro, before its final endorsement to Pope Francis.
These days, a family and an elderly gentleman live in Avenida Varela 268. The owner of the building, Maximillano Mauro, is thrilled with the discovery. “When we learned the news, we were speechless—this was the house where my grandparents lived!” he revealed.
Daniel sent the documents he collected to Maria Eugenia Vidal, then vice mayor of Buenos Aires, now governor, and requested that the house be declared a “Historical Site and Cultural Heritage of the City,” and for a plaque to be placed on the façade, similar to the one placed on Calle Membrillar.