BUENOS AIRES — For the last two days here “it’s been all pope, everything pope. In the streets, in the cafes, on the corners, everyone’s talking about the pope,” said Fernando Vignoles, a thirtysomething cab driver and longtime resident of Argentina’s capital.
From the freeway late Thursday night, Vignoles proudly pointed into the darkness to the outline of a handsome old church where the man now known as Pope Francis, the former archbishop of Buenos Aires, had presided over his confirmation ceremony as a young man.
“He’s a good guy, a really good guy,” he said. “Everyone’s very proud here.”
But Vignoles, in many ways, is indicative of the challenge that Francis faced here as archbishop: while porteños, as Buenos Aires residents are known, overwhelmingly consider themselves Roman Catholic, many fewer are regular churchgoers. Vignoles says that with four kids to raise and 18-hour days to work, he doesn’t have time to fit in visits to Mass.
The new pope’s hometown, a metropolitan area of roughly 12 million people, is famously old-school and New World, a city of cutting-edge literature, 21st century Bohemian, a city of tradition with a taste for the new, at once conservative and licentious.