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Second, the meeting produced much of what eight years later has become central to the Francis agenda.John Allen, a longtime Vatican analyst and author, wrote that four big themes emerged. He likes soccer and has invited his hometown team from Argentina to the Vatican, as well as the Italian and Argentine national teams.And yet the pope, an Argentine, also showed little interest in involving himself too deeply in the political squabbles of his home continent.Look back at highlights from the trip, including my posts on meeting the pope midair, press restrictions in Ecuador, complicated gift-giving in Bolivia, and a “vegetable masterpiece” of an altar in Paraguay. His big speech in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, was the defining thematic moment, as he twinned a historic apology for the Roman Catholic Church’s complicity in Spanish colonialism in Latin America with a blunt criticism of a “new colonialism” at a global level, rooted in materialism, inequality and a profit mentality.Please continue to follow me on Twitter and Instagram. He attracted huge, enthusiastic crowds and received blanket media coverage in the countries he visited, Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay.

A NBC News/ Wall Street Journal poll in April showed that 55 percent of Americans have a positive view of the pope, compared with only 6 percent who have a negative view. I’m planning to travel with Francis again in September and am looking forward to reporting on the trip up close. Before we boarded the papal airline on Sunday for the long flight back to Rome, the debate had begun: What questions would we ask the pope? Pope Francis has made it a tradition to hold a mid-air news conference on the return trip of any of his international flights.

He will speak before Congress and at the United Nations, so on the biggest stages. Many thanks to everyone who followed this notebook, or who kept up on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Whats App. For reporters, it is our chance to directly question the pope on tough issues and see how he responds. The traveling press pool is too big for everyone to ask a question, yet it is too diverse to allow only one or two journalists to handle the job.

First dibs always go to reporters from the countries visited during the trip. Journalist from Spanish-speaking countries cluster together, as do the Italians, the English speakers and other Europeans.

Ultimately, Pope Benedict XVI was selected, but Cardinal Bergoglio finished second.

He had come close to the papacy, but left that conclave as a 68-year-old cardinal returning to Argentina to presumably live out his days. In 2007, the Latin American bishops held an important meeting at the Marian shrine in Aparecida, the largest pilgrimage site in Latin America, by some estimates attracting 10 million pilgrims a year.

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