ROME – Pope Francis has long lamented that he cannot walk around the city unnoticed as he used to before becoming pope. But he appears to have retained his sense of humor after being caught on camera making an unannounced visit to a record store in Rome this week.
Francis wrote a note to the Vatican reporter who was in the right place at the right time on Tuesday night when the Pope slipped out of the Vatican to bless the newly renovated Stereo Sound store near the Pantheon.
Javier Martinez-Brocal, director of the Rome Reports news agency, filmed Francis leaving the store, in footage that went viral and was even published in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.
Martinez-Brocal wrote the Pope a note afterwards, explaining that he was no paparazzi and regretting that Francis could no longer move unnoticed, but adding that the story delivered a much-needed dose of good news for one of tragedy flooded world delivered.
“I will not deny that it was (bad luck) that after all precautions were taken, a journalist was waiting for someone at the taxi line,” Francis replied. But he added: “You can’t lose your sense of humor.”
Francis then reiterated in his typically tiny writing that what he misses most about being pope is that he can no longer walk like he used to in Buenos Aires. Former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was known for using public transportation around the Argentine capital, avoiding the private cars other cardinals typically take to visit parishes. He became pope in 2013.
Francis acknowledged that Martinez-Brocal was just doing his job as a journalist when he was recording the event. “Thank you for fulfilling your calling, even if it got the Pope into trouble,” he joked.
The shopkeepers later told The Associated Press that Francis arrived unannounced around 7pm, having told them at a previous meeting at the Vatican that he was coming to visit. “He came into the store and it was a great meeting. And as he promised, he blessed the shop,” said shop owner Tiziana Esposito.
Co-owner Danilo Genio said Francis had been a long-time customer who, as a priest, archbishop and then cardinal in Buenos Aires, stopped by whenever he was in Rome for meetings at the Vatican.
“When he came to Rome to go to the Vatican, he always came here first to buy some gifts,” he said.
Francis, who grew up listening to operas on the radio and loves tango, Mozart and Wagner, didn’t buy anything this time. But the shopkeepers gave him a CD of classical music.