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Vatican City — Meanwhile, the pope’s distant cousins in a hilltop hamlet in northern Italy claim Argentina’s Pope Francis as one of their own.
Bergoglio’s great grandfather, also named Francesco or Francis, bought a farmhouse in 1864 in Bricco Marmorito which sits in the shadow of the snow-capped Alps in a wine-producing region in northwest Italy.
Relatives living in the quiet hamlet were as excited as anyone when Bergoglio’s name was announced as the new pope from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica 700 km south in Rome on Wednesday night.
“When we heard the news we were really surprised because we never thought he could become pope,” Anna Bergoglio, a distant cousin of Pope Francis, said in the garden of her house in the province of Asti, best known for its sparkling wines.
Her grown-up daughter Roberta was one of the few in the family - and beyond - who seemed to have an inkling that he might become leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics.
“Last Friday we were looking at a photograph of him and my daughter said ‘Mum, do you think he could be Pope Bergoglio?’ And I said ‘I hope so’,” Anna recalled.
Francis and the cardinals who elected him toasted his appointment on Wednesday with a glass of Asti spumante fizzy wine, a nod to his Italian roots and less expensive than champagne for a man who likes to eschew life’s luxuries.
Bergoglio’s father emigrated from Italy in the 1920s, one of millions of Italians who moved to Argentina in search of a better life.