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AP Photo/Oded Balilty

Ok. This is of course a subject that can’t be missed. We have a new pope. He is Argentine. I am an immigrant in Argentina. So he is kind of ‘my pope’.

Although I really didn’t see it like that at all, quite on the contrary. I was out having lunch with a friend when text messages from Belgium started coming in. Actually ‘started coming in’ is not quite the correct way to put it.   All of a sudden it seemed like my phone was about to explode with incoming messages : I was forced to turn it off in order not to molest my neighbors in the restaurant. I received messages from family, friends and far acquaintances in Belgium, all congratulating me on the new pope. What? Me? Why? What connection do I have with this new pope anyway? It is not like I knew him or that he has become pope because of my doing.

But after a while I got used to the congratulations and accepted them gladly. From Belgians I heard that all they talk about in the news is Argentina… not just the pope but also about his country of origin. That maybe he might bring some Argentine tradition into Europe. So some journalist has also realized that Argentina (the Argentines) are not just different but we Europeans might actually learn something from them? Hmmm. Interesting. (Maybe I am not mad after all, having moved to this country. Hehe)

Since that day, all the papers talked about is this new pope, the leader of 1,2 billion people. Whatever he does is broadcasted live on TV. This quite puts his rival, the president, into the shade, with only 40 million Argentines to rule over. It has been extremely quiet around her, the only way for for her to get back into the spotlight was to fly to Rome and meet the pope personally. It looks like Francis I, from one day into the next,  has become the most famous Argentine. More famous then Maxima and probably more famous then Maradona and Messi. And as if there aren’t yet enough public holidays in this country, last Friday the minister of education thought it was necessary to ad a new one. Tomorrow there is no school so everyone can watch the papal inauguration. I suppose the economy would have been down anyway, as this is probably a unique event for the Argentines.

Whatever can be said about the election of Francis I, one thing is certain :  it has put Argentina on the map. It was a far away and quite exotic country, but now it has come a lot closer, and at least it has become visible. I wonder what the influence will be in the long run. Argentines at least hope that he will bring change in this god forsaken country. And me,  I hope so too. They could use some change around here.