Pope tours offer window into Francis' life in Buenos Aires

Cardinal Bergoglio

Pope Francis used to pick up La Nacion every day at a kiosk across from the city's cathedral. Each edition was bound by a rubber band. But being frugal, he would save the rubber bands and return them in a ball at the end of every month, reports CNS.

Guide Javier Cortese offered the anecdote while leading tours around central Buenos Aires, where the local government and private companies alike have capitalised on the popularity of Pope Francis. Tour guides now take tourists to the most notable and mundane points -- from his neighborhood parish to the newspaper stand -- visited by the Pope during his life in Buenos Aires.

Cortese said the tours are nothing out of the ordinary, given the excitement in Buenos Aires over Pope Francis' unexpected election. The idea for the tours "was hatched the same day" of the March 2013 election, he said.

The Buenos Aires government was quick to embrace Pope Francis' election; it investigated his past and put plaques at places like his childhood home. 

Despite the early excitement, the tours in Buenos Aires may be running their course and, at some places, bring more bother than benefits. The local government's tours stay away from the newspaper stand, for example. Guides describe it from across the street, even though it made worldwide headlines after Pope Francis phoned to cancel his subscription.

When approached after a tour, Daniel del Regno, the son of the owner, expressed exasperation at the attention and refused to allow photos to be taken of the business made famous by the Pope. 'It's been a stampede of people,' he said of the attention. 

One year after the pope's election, the people keep coming, albeit in smaller numbers. The Buenos Aires municipal government's tourist office said it took 321 people on its twice-weekly walking tours in 2013, with the biggest number being recorded in May, right after the initiative was unveiled. 

One of the 90-minute tours covers the city center and the other in the Barrio Flores, where Pope Francis grew up. The local government also provides a three-hour Saturday excursion to both areas with free transportation. Instructions for unaccompanied tours are also provided; all tours are free of charge.

Private operators jumped in the game, too, with some tours costing more than $100, lasting the day and taking in additional sights, such as the San Lorenzo soccer club installations, since Pope Francis is a fan.

FULL STORY Pope tours offer anecdotes, look into Francis' life in Buenos Aires (CNS)

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