The volume María – Iglesia. Madre del pueblo misionero is a “summa of popular Mariology,” as the Argentinean theologian Carlos Galli states in his preface. Its author, Fr. Alexandre Awi Mello, was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on January 17, 1971. Ordained priest in 2001, he was one of the two editorial secretaries of the Fifth General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean, held at the Marian shrine of Aparecida in 2007. There he met Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio and collaborated with him in the drafting of the Aparecida Document.
In 2013 the pope asked him to be his secretary and translator during his visit to Brazil for World Youth Day. At that time a friendship was established between them that made this original research work possible. The book’s main sources are two long interviews that Pope Francis gave to Fr. Awi Mello at Santa Marta, on December 23, 2013, and September 6, 2015, after the approval of the topic of his doctoral thesis. These sources constitute the essential part of the thesis on which the Brazilian priest carried out exhaustive research work, with the published work having a bibliography more than 30 pages long.
Fr. Awi Mello states that “he had felt struck by the gestures and attitudes of the first Latin American Pope” in relation to Mary: “The great tenderness he expressed there seemed to reveal something deeper; it certainly depicted Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s sincere and filial love for Mary, probably rooted in his family history.” “The Virgin Mary was a part of our home,” Bergoglio said to Awi Mello, almost as if to make him understand that the concrete signs of devotion emerged in a natural way in the Marian atmosphere of his home and college.