You’d be forgiven for hanging up if someone called your landline and announced, “It’s the Pope”.
But don’t be too hasty. Pope Francis, who has charmed both his Catholic congregation and those of other faiths and no faith since his election in March, has taken to making personal calls to individuals who have written to him or suffered a personal tragedy.
According to Italy’s Corriere della Sera newspaper the 76-year-old Pontiff has called an Italian man whose brother was killed and a Colombian woman who works in Rome to thank her for a book. He places the calls himself, always uses a landline, and announces simply, “It’s the Pope”.
Two days after his election he surprised the receptionist at the Jesuit headquarters in Rome by ringing for the Jesuit superior.
The recipient of this week’s call, a 19-year-old student Stefano Cabizza, was quoted by Corriere as saying that the Pope had told him to refer to him with the informal “tu”, noting that “even Jesus and the apostles used the tu”. Mr Cabizza said he received the call after leaving a letter for the Pope following his mass at Castel Gandolfo last week. He declined to say what he had written.
Beppe Severgnini, the paper’s humourist who gave readers etiquette advice on talking to the Pope, told them: “Just be natural. If he wanted to get bored, he would have called a government minister.”
He added that callers should ask after the previous Pope, Benedict XVI, talk about football, but never ask for favours or try to discuss Vatican scandals.