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Pope at 12 to neighbor girl: 'If I don't marry you, I'm going to be a priest'

| Friday, March 15, 2013, 8:39 p.m.
Amalia Damonte poses outside of her home in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Friday, March 15, 2013. Damonte, who grew up as the neighbor of the future Pope Francis, says she was very briefly the object of his affections when they were just 12 years old. Damonte is now 76, just like the pope, and she still lives in a house just four doors down from where Jorge Mario Bergoglio grew up in the Flores neighborhood of Buenos Aires. (AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano)

BUENOS AIRES — An Argentine woman who grew up as the neighbor of the man who would become pope has been tracked down by local media.

She said she was the object of his affections, and that Jorge Mario Bergoglio even proposed, but she turned him down. They were 12 years old.

Amalia Damonte is now 76, just like the pope, and she still lives in a house four doors down from where Bergoglio grew up in the Flores neighborhood of Buenos Aires.

Damonte recalled a letter he wrote to her, because it got her into trouble with her parents.

“I remember perfectly that he had drawn me a little white house, which had a red roof, and it said “this is what I'll buy when we marry.”

She said he told her “If I don't marry you, I'm going to be a priest.”

She called their relationship “pure” and “childlike.”

But her parents were furious — her father spanked her, and her mother confronted her.

“My mom broke it off. Good Lord. She came to get me at the school and she said, ‘So, you're getting letters from a boy?!' ”

“My parents pulled me away completely. From that point on, they did everything possible to separate us,” she said. “What I wanted is for him to disappear from the map!”

The Bergoglio family moved away from Membrillar Street decades ago. Damonte said she moved away as well, married and raised a family, and only returned to her parents' home years later.

She followed her former neighbor's rise through the church, naturally, but never tried to speak with him again.

“I think he's really very down-to-earth, and that's how I am, too. I'm very humble,” she said.

Argentine media have been calling Damonte the “Pope's Girlfriend,” and wondering whether she'll try to see him again. She says that's ridiculous.

“He's in a very high position, and I'm still very humble,” she said.

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