Mark Shriver CNS photo/courtesy Laurence L. Levin
BOSTON -- "Intrigued." That is how Mark K. Shriver, president of the Save the Children Action Network, said he felt as he watched Jorge Mario Bergoglio become Pope Francis in March 2013.
"His first couple of actions -- from asking for blessings from the people before he blessed them as the new pope, to paying for his hotel bill, to washing the feet of those young juvenile delinquents at the Casa del Marmo -- really caught my eye," he recalled.
"Seeing all these early actions of his made me question, 'Is he for real, or is this some kind of public relations stunt?'" Shriver said.
Seeking the answer to this question, Shriver embarked on a two-year journey in which he found himself travelling to Buenos Aires, reading Pope Francis' homilies, speaking to countless friends and acquaintances -- Catholic and non-Catholic alike. The result is his book, "Pilgrimage: My Search for the Real Pope Francis," released Nov. 29, that explores the life of Jorge Bergoglio through the eyes of many of his closest friends.
"After immersing myself in Pope Francis -- in his life, in his actions, in his words -- I can very much say he is the real deal," Shriver said.
"(Pope Francis) was washing people's feet in the villas of Buenos Aires, not just on Holy Thursday, not just when the cameras were on, but always," he said. "He has been reaching out to those on the periphery in Buenos Aires for a very, very long time."