Pope Francis to reunite with cousin on visit to Thailand

Sister Ana Rosa Sivori will travel with Pope Francis as his personal translator when he visits Thailand. (AP)
Updated 18 November 2019

Pope Francis to reunite with cousin on visit to Thailand

  • Sister Sivori, who has lived in Thailand for more than 50 years, will travel with Pope Francis as his personal translator
  • The cousins have grown closer since Bergoglio became Pope Francis in 2013

UDON THANI, Thailand: In a remote Catholic school in Thailand, Sister Ana Rosa Sivori, 77, kneels in a chapel to pray at the beginning of the school day.
The Catholic nun is also counting down the days when she will be reunited with her cousin, Pope Francis.
Or, as she calls him, Jorge. They grew up together in Argentina.
Sister Sivori, who has lived in Thailand for more than 50 years, will travel with Pope Francis as his personal translator when he visits the Southeast Asian nation from Wednesday to Saturday.
“For me, it’s a pleasure that he’s coming ... I never thought that he will be coming to Thailand,” the soft-spoken nun told Reuters in an interview.
“I’m happy for the people. I want the people to see him, to be close to him.”
The cousins, whose grandfathers were brothers, grew up in a big Catholic family in Argentina.
Sivori said they weren’t close as children, since Jorge Mario Bergoglio — as the Pope was known then — was six years older than she.
She joined the Catholic ministry young, and her calling as a missionary brought her to Thailand, where she has lived since 1966 and worked in schools across the country.
Now, she is a vice principal at St. Mary’s School in the northeastern province of Udon Thani, about 600 kilometers from Bangkok, the capital.
The cousins have grown closer since Bergoglio became Pope Francis in 2013.
On every journey home to her family in Argentina, Sivori first stops by the Vatican in Italy to see him for a few days.
The last time they saw each other was in 2018, when they bonded over their love of books.
“He took me up to the big room with plenty of books. He told me to choose, he would ask ‘Do you want this one?’,” she said.
“When we talk, we feel like brother and sister. For me, of course I know that he’s the Pope ... but we talk simply.”
She will travel to Bangkok ahead of the pontiff’s arrival and shadow him during his visit, at his request.
In the Buddhist-majority country, Pope Francis will meet King Maha Vajiralongkorn, the supreme Buddhist patriarch, Catholic leaders and students, before flying on to Japan.
Sivori brings out an envelope of handwritten letters and postcards from the Vatican and reads them fondly.
“When I meet him, I’ll call him by his name, Jorge. Pope Francis just came after,” she said.
“I’m proud of him.”


Karzai urges Ghani to drop truce as pre-condition for talks with Taliban

Updated 21 January 2020

Karzai urges Ghani to drop truce as pre-condition for talks with Taliban

  • Ex-president says Taliban offer to reduce violence a ‘major development’

KABUL: Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai has urged President Ashraf Ghani to drop the pre-condition of cease-fire to begin talks with the Taliban amid high hope that the US and Taliban delegates will sign a deal following more than a year of secret discussions.

Speaking in an interview with BBC local service, Karzai said the government “should not block intra-Afghan dialogue under the pretext of cease-fire.” He said the Taliban offer for reduction in violence as the group says is nearing to ink the deal with American diplomats in Qatar, was a “major development.”

He said Ghani needed to accept the Taliban offer.

Ghani says truce is a must ahead of starting any negotiations with the Taliban calling reduction in violence a general term and arguing that such a call by the Taliban political leaders in Qatar only goes to show that they have control over field commanders back in Afghanistan.

The Taliban say the group will announce truce when the intra-Afghan dialogue begins which will happen after Washington sets timetable for withdrawal of the troops.

Washington at least on one occasion called off the talks with the Taliban in Qatar due to Taliban attacks back in Afghanistan as discussions continued in Qatar despite none of the warring sides having committed to halt offensives during the talks.

Ghani’s government has been sidelined from all rounds of talks between the Taliban delegates and US diplomats led by Zalmay Khalilzad in Qatar. There has also been rift between Ghani and Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, who shares power with the president in the National Unity Government, on the pre-condition of cease-fire.

Unlike Ghani, Abdullah is happy with reduction of violence. Talking in a meeting of council of ministers, Abdullah on Monday indirectly said Ghani had taken the peace process in his monopoly.

 “Peace is not one person’s monopoly, one person’s wish — but it is a collective desire, and the people of Afghanistan have the right to take a position regarding the peace process,” said Abdullah.