5 Popes, 150 Papal Trips and One Stern Lecture for Bishops

5 Popes, 150 Papal Trips and One Stern Lecture for Bishops

Three decades later, she was called as a witness to testify on the virtues of John Paul II, the first step toward the sainthood that the church acknowledged in 2014. (The reporter in her came out when she noted, in her speech to the bishops, that the pope’s memory was tarnished by his protracted support of Marcial Maciel, the Mexican founder of the ultraconservative Legionaries of Christ, who was later found to be a pedophile and womanizer.)

Even now, she thinks that when people stop her on the streets of Mexico or in St. Peter’s Square, it is not because she’s a television personality but because they associate her with John Paul II. (She has also written several books about him).

“For 26 years, if the pope was on TV they’d hear my voice, so there’s this instant pairing,” she said. “They want to thank me for being a connection with the popes. It’s not fame, it’s fondness.”

She pulled the surprise sombrero trick on Pope Francis when he went to Mexico in 2016. “The photographers are happiest when the popes put on the sombrero. It’s a tradition now,” she said — though she spared Pope Benedict XVI because he is more reserved, “and I thought it would embarrass him.”

Francis sat down for an hourlong interview with Ms. Alazraki around the second anniversary of his papacy, one of only a few such interviews he has granted.

Ms. Alazraki said that her great privilege as a journalist was “tied to the sensation of having touched history with my hands.” She cited watching John Paul II with Fidel Castro in Cuba, with Mother Teresa in one of her homes for the neglected, and with Nelson Mandela at the end of apartheid. She cited the visit of Benedict XVI, a German pope, to Auschwitz, and a meeting in Cuba between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill, the leader of the Russian Orthodox Churcha. “These moments stay with you,” she said.

After giving her own presentation to the bishops last month, Ms. Alazraki returned to the Vatican media room and was greeted with sustained applause by the reporters present.

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