Either Pope Francis is an old man with nothing better to do than sit around his palace calling old friends, or he has crafted a clever-as-a-fox public relations campaign — or he’s just an extremely nice person. The newly installed and famously down-to-earth pontiff recently called the newspaper kiosk that supplied his paper in Buenos Aires to cancel his subscription. The result is heartwarming:
Around 1:30 p.m. local time on March 18, Daniel Del Regno, the kiosk owner’s son, answered the phone and heard a voice say, "Hi Daniel, it’s Cardinal Jorge."
He thought that maybe a friend who knew that the former Archbishop of Buenos Aires bought the newspaper from them every day was pulling a prank on him.
"Seriously, it’s Jorge Bergoglio, I’m calling you from Rome," the Pope insisted.
"I was in shock, I broke down in tears and didn’t know what to say," Del Regno told the Argentinean daily La Nacion. "He thanked me for delivering the paper all this time and sent best wishes to my family."
Del Regno shared that when Cardinal Bergoglio left for Rome for the conclave, he asked him if he thought he would be elected Pope.
"He answered me, ‘That is too hot to touch. See you in 20 days, keep delivering the paper.’ And the rest is, well, history," he said.
"I told him to take care and that I would miss him," Del Regno continued. "I asked him if there would ever be the chance to see him here again. He said that for the time being that would be very difficult, but that he would always be with us."
Hours after his election, Francis placed another call, this time to Italian journalist Stefania Falasca. This time, it was just to chat:
"The phone rang…. My son picked it up and it was the pope," Stefania Falasca, a former editor for a Catholic monthly, told Italian media.
"At home we just called him ‘father’, we never called him ‘eminence’. I didn’t know what to say. I asked him ‘Father, what am I meant to call you? Holy Father?’" she said.
"He laughed and he told me ‘The first phone call I wanted to make was to say hello to you, Gianni and the kids,’" she said.
Incredulity seems to be the universal reaction to getting a call from God’s representative on earth. When Francis tried to place a call to a Jesuit colleague and informed the receptionist who was calling, the receptionist shot back, "Oh yes? And I’m Napoleon." All this – he’s also called his dentist to cancel his appointments — makes us wonder: If you haven’t gotten a call from Francis, does that mean you’re a nobody?
Alicia P.Q. Wittmeyer is assistant managing editor for online at Foreign Policy. Her work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, and Forbes, among other places. She holds a bachelor's degree from U.C. Berkeley, and master's degrees from Peking University and the London School of Economics. The P.Q. stands for Ping-Quon.| Passport |