Pope Francis travels to Asti this weekend to meet his cousins

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The pontiff arrives to celebrate the 90th birthday of his cousin Carla Rabezzana on Saturday, while the next day he will preside over a mass in the cathedral to celebrate the holiday of Christ the King

Pope Francis travels to Asti this weekend to meet his cousins

Francis waits for his cousin to prepare the famous “bagna cauda”, one of his favorite dishes of the Piedmont, a kind of sauce made from garlic and anchovies that is eaten with vegetables. REUTERS/Remo Casilli

Pope Francis will spend this weekend in Asti, in the northern Italian region of Piedmont, to meet his second cousins ​​and celebrate the 90th birthday of her cousin Carla Rabezzanaon an unprecedented family trip to the land of her grandparents.

In the small town of Portacomaro, in the province of Asti and where she has lived since 2015, after being widowed, Carla Rabezzana has been preparing for days the arrival of his cousin “Giorgio”, as they call Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Pope Francis, who will arrive tomorrow to celebrate his 90th birthday, which took place on November 8.

The pontiff is the son of Mario Bergoglio, his mother Agnes' first cousin, and this family meal will also be joined by five other cousins ​​and their families who will travel from Turin, Vaglierano and Tigliole, all cities in Piedmont.

For a long time I wanted to spend a few hours with my relatives in my family places. Before being pope he often went to the Asti area, it was a custom: when he arrived in Rome as provincial of the Jesuits of Argentina, or as archbishop to participate in a synod. Each time I went through Piedmont to see my father's cousins. With the older cousin, Carla, we often talk on the phone. Tomorrow we will meet with five other cousins, and this fills me with joy”, explains Francisco in an interview today in the Turin newspaper “La Stampa”.

Pope Francis travels to Asti this weekend to meet his cousins

The town of Asti seen from the air. (Gettyimages)

And Francisco waits for his cousin to prepare the famous “bagna cauda”, one of his favorite dishes from Piedmont, a kind of sauce made from garlic and anchovies that is eaten with vegetables.

”For Saturday lunch, the other cousins ​​and I will prepare some roast meat and lots of vegetables, he eats them a lot, especially now, and then the bonet, the cocoa-based pudding typical of Piedmontese cuisine. We will eat the birthday cake on Sunday, at lunch with the bishop, after mass”, Carla reveals to the Vatican media.

She explains that she often speaks with the pope “in Piedmontese, because he is very attached to this land, which he considers his own, not just his parents', and he understands the dialect very well, since his grandparents only spoke dialect.”

“I will hug him first, because we haven't seen each other for three years, since the end of 2019, before the pandemic, when I went with my family to the Vatican. And then we'll chat, as we do at least once a month on the phone, like loving relatives. I'll ask about his knee, which hurts now. He tells me this when we talk on the phone,” adds Rabezzana.

Pope Francis travels to Asti this weekend to meet with his cousins

On Sunday the pope will preside over the mass in the cathedral of Asti to “embrace the local community from which his parents left to emigrate to Argentina”, they explain from the diocese. (Gettyimages)

On Saturday, Francis will spend the entire afternoon with his relatives in a completely private meeting, while the following day, November 20, when the feast of Christ the King is celebrated, he will preside at mass in the cathedral of Asti for “embrace the local community from which his parents left to emigrate to Argentina”, they explain from the diocese.

In June 2015, he had been on an official visit in Turin and also on that occasion he was able to hug his family.

But since his election in 2013, the Asti city council has insistently asked the pope to return to the land of his grandparents with invitations as original as a bottle of Grignolino, the local wine, with a special label: “Ast t'aspeta a bras”. duert” (Asti awaits you with open arms).

According to the pontiff's family tree reconstructed by the Municipality of Asti, Giuseppe Bergoglio's great-great-grandfather was born in 1816 in the village of Schierano, while the great-great-grandmother Gioacchino Maria, Antonio's daughter, was born in 1819 in Cocconato d'Asti.

Pope Francis travels to Asti this weekend to meet his cousins

But since his election in 2013, the Asti city council has insistently asked the pope to return to the land of their grandparents with invitations as original as a bottle of Grignolino, the local wine, with a special label: “Ast t'aspeta a bras duert” (Asti awaits you with open arms). REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane

His grandfather, Giovanni Bergoglio (1884) emigrated to Turin in 1906 and married Rosa Vassallo, a native of Piana Crixia (Liguria), while the father of the pontiff, Mario Bergoglio, born in Turin in 1908, the family returned to Asti, where they opened a grocery store before emigrating to Argentina.

The pope's father and mother, Regina Sivori, from Savona ( Liguria), and the grandparents of the future pontiff left for Buenos Aires on February 1, 1929.

(With information from EFE)

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