RELIGION
03/15/2013 03:25 pm ET

Amalia Damonte, Pope Francis' Childhood Sweetheart, Rejected Young Man's Marriage Proposal (VIDEO)

Amalia Damonte remembers the day her 12-year-old neighbor spoke these sweet words in a fit of adolescent passion: "If I don't marry you, I'm going to be a priest."

But Jorge Mario Bergoglio was no ordinary boy, and today, following that young man's selection as the head of the Catholic Church, Damonte's long ago memory seems especially prescient.

The boy who would become Pope Francis grew up a few doors down from Damonte, in the Flores neighborhood of Buenos Aires, Argentina, according to the Associated Press.

Damonte, 76, told reporters Thursday that she still remembers the "love letter" the young pope gave to her. In it, he detailed the house he had planned for them to live in when they got married.

However, the romance was doomed from the start.

"My mom broke it off," she said, according to the AP. "Good Lord. She came to get me at the school and she said 'so, you're getting letters from a boy?!'"

Damonte said she never replied to the letter, because she worried about further punishment from her parents.

"What I wanted was for him to disappear from the map," she said, according to The Telegraph. "I never saw him after that - my parents kept me away from him and did everything possible to separate us."

Francis was born into a large family in the Argentinian suburbs, NBC Latino notes. The son of Italian immigrants, Francis studied chemistry before joining the priesthood, according to Reuters.

Speaking with The Telegraph, Francis' sister María Elena Bergoglio said she never wanted her brother to take over for former Pope Benedict XVI.

"I didn't want him to become Pope because he's going to be very far away and second because it is such a large responsibility," she said.

In private conversations, Bergoglio said her brother, too, did not seem to want the job. Nonetheless, she is extremely proud of her sibling, adding that "having a brother who is a pope is a blessing from God."

ALSO ON HUFFPOST:

New Pope Elected

CONVERSATIONS