25 Surprising Facts About Pope Francis

Posted by , Updated on March 21, 2024

Recently, the United States was honored with a visit from Pope Francis, a profound experience which has had a significant effect on numerous lives, reportedly even impacting the current US House of Representative Speaker, John Boehner. What exactly about this man encapsulates so many? Could it be his authenticity? Or his heartwarming deeds of kindness, such as comforting AIDS victims or embracing children? Perhaps it’s his sense of humor? Possibly, it’s a combination of all these traits and even more. Notwithstanding, there is no denying, Pope Francis is a fascinating individual, possibly being one of the most intriguing Popes in the history of the Church. Facts about the Pope could very well underline this assertion. Did you know, for instance, that our Holy Father studied philosophy at the Catholic University of Buenos Aires, and also holds a master’s degree in Chemistry from the University of Buenos Aires? Furthermore, Pope Francis holds the distinction as being the first Jesuit pope, the first from the Americas, the first from the Southern Hemisphere, and the first non-European pope since the Syrian Gregory III in 741. Here’s another fun tidbit: Pope Francis once worked as a bouncer at a bar in Buenos Aires to fund his educational pursuits, so don’t underestimate him. While these are just a few highlights, today we present you with 25 Intriguing Facts About Pope Francis That You Likely Aren’t Aware of.


Francis is the Pope of many firsts. He is the first Jesuit pope, the first from the Americas, the first from the Southern Hemisphere and the first non-European pope since the Syrian Gregory III in 741.

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He is unusually multilingual, speaking Spanish, Latin and Italian fluently and understanding German, French, Portuguese, English, and Ukrainian.

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He chose his papal name due to the humility and austerity associated with St. Francis of Assisi and he really lives up to his reputation. While Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he lived in a simple apartment and rode the bus. When he was elected the Pope, he flew to Rome in economy class.

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The Pontiff had only one functioning lung. He had a part of his right lung removed in his youth due to an infection, but he appears to be in good health even at the ripe age of almost 78.

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As a true-blooded Argentine, he is a big fan of tango. According to the Catholic News Agency, several thousands of tango dancers are expected to perform for him on the St. Peter´s Square on his 78th birthday.

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Another “secular” thing Pope Francis loves is soccer. He is a proud supporter of San Lorenzo de Almagro Football club, a traditional soccer team from his home neighborhood.

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He likes J.R.R. Tolkien and has read his works. He particularly grew fond of Frodo and Bilbo whom he used as examples of hopeful heroes who are called to walk a path in the unfolding drama between good and evil.

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Apart from his modesty and humility, the Pontiff is also known to have a good sense of humor. When he was elected as Pope, he reportedly told other cardinals, "May God forgive you for what you have done." He was also photographed while good-naturedly trying on a red nose used by clowns.

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Before he became a Jesuit, Pope Francis worked as a bouncer in a Buenos Aries bar to help pay for his studies.

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In the 1960´s, he taught literature, philosophy, psychology, and theology at several high schools in Argentina.

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Pope Francis' acts remind people of scenes from the Bible. He embraced and blessed a man covered in tumors (similarly to the story of Jesus who healed lepers) and washed the feet of juvenile delinquents, including a Muslim woman.

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His Holiness studied philosophy at the Catholic University of Buenos Aires and also has a master's degree in Chemistry from the University of Buenos Aires.

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Pope Francis is a legal citizen of three different countries. Apart from Argentina where he was born and raised, he is also a citizen of Italy (because of a legal tradition and his Italian parentage) and since Vatican is as a sovereign entity with the Pope as its leader, it makes three countries in total.

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At the age of 12, he fell in love with a girl from his neighborhood. He reportedly told her, "If I don't marry you, I'm going to be a priest." Even in this case, the Pontiff kept his word.

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Pope Francis´ favorite painting is The White Crucifixion by Marc Chagall. The painting shows Jesus being crucified on the cross, wearing a prayer shawl as a symbol that he is Jewish.

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From 1998 to 2013, he was the Archbishop of Buenos Aires. In 2001, he was created a cardinal by Pope John Paul II.

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After being elected the Pope in March 2013, Francis chose not to live in the official papal residence in the Apostolic Palace, but to remain in the much humbler Vatican guest house where he can receive visitors and hold meetings. He is the first pope since Pope Pius X to live outside the papal apartments.

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In 2013, American news magazine the Time named Pope Francis the Person of the Year, a prestigious title given to the one who “has done the most to influence the events of the year".

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The Pontiff was given a Harley-Davidson motorcycle after he gave blessings to hundreds of Harley owners and their rides in St. Peter’s Square. He sold the bike at an auction that benefited the homeless.

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Famous for his fondness for soccer, His Holiness is often given soccer jerseys. Presidents, dignitaries, celebrities as well random pilgrims have all given him soccer jerseys (some of them personalized), creating an impressive collection that many soccer fans can be envious

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As a young teen, the Pope used to play basketball (influenced by his father who played basketball for San Lorenzo) so he also enjoys and receives many basketball jerseys including a personalized jersey from the NBA´s Boston Celtics.

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As a cardinal with access to the renowned Archbishop chef, Francis chose to cook his own meals in his small apartment in downtown Buenos Aires. As the Pope, he made a surprising visit to the Vatican cafeteria to eat with local workers.

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The official name of the Pope is not Francis I but just Pope Francis. It will become Francis I after there is another Pope Francis II.

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In 2001, as the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he washed and kissed the feet of 12 patients with AIDS at an Argentine hospice.

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Pope Francis came out strong against sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. Francis has branded the sexual abuse of children by priests an ugly crime saying he would show zero tolerance for anyone in the church who perpetrated such crimes against children.

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