Francis' father's journey to the new world

Italy to Buenos Aires

Francis is the first Pope from Latin America but he is the son of an Italian immigrant from Piedmont, Mario Bergoglio. Mario was one of thousands to make the long journey to the Americas in the early 20th century, reports Italy magazine.

Searching on the CISEI database (International Centre of Italian Emigration Studies), it is even possible to track down details regarding the journey of the pope’s father. CISEI catalogues emigration documents and recreates passengers’ embarkation lists from the port of Genoa.

CISEI reveals that Mario Bergoglio was just 21-years-old when he boarded the Giulio Cesare (Julius Caesar) ship in Genoa to make the transatlantic crossing to Buenos Aires, arriving on 15 February 1929. At that time, the crossing took a few weeks, following a typical route from Genoa in Italy to Rio De Janeiro and Santos in Brazil, on to Montevideo in Uruguay, and finally to Buenos Aires and Rosario in Argentina.

The Giulio Cesare was one of the great Italian liners of the era owned by the Navigazione Generale Italiana (Italian General Navigation) shipping company based in Genoa. It was built at the Hunter & Wigham Richardson shipyard in Newcastle upon Tyne, England and had a crew of 480 people.

The Giulio Cesare set out on its maiden voyage, from Genoa to Buenos Aires, on May 22, 1922. The liner was then used for crossings from Genoa to New York. It began being used for crossings to South America in August 1925. The Giulio Cesare was one of the most modern luxury liners of the time, with opulent cabins, dining rooms, a bar and a library. Even third-class passengers dined well: a lunch menu of the time offered minestra lombarda vegetable and bean soup served with bread and wine, followed by baccala in bianco dried salted cod fish with salad, potatoes and onions. The meal rounded off with fruit.

Yet, not everyone had a smooth crossing in those days. Only two years before Mario Bergoglio, the SS Principessa Mafalda Italian transatlantic ocean liner named after King Victor Emmanuel III’s daughter, Princess Mafalda of Savoy, had sunk. On October 25, 1927, while the SS Principessa Mafalda was off the coast of Brazil, a propeller shaft fractured and damaged the hull. Although the ship sank slowly and rescue vessels were on hand, the confusion and panic among passengers and crew resulted in the deaths of 314 of the 1,252 people on board, representing the greatest ever tragedy in Italian shipping.

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