Latin America & Caribbean

Pope Francis calls newspaper kiosk to cancel order

Pope Francis smiles during an audience with ambassadors from the 180 countries that have diplomatic relations with the Holy See, at the Vatican, 22 March 2013
Image caption The former archbishop of Buenos Aires had been expecting to lead Easter services in the city next week

The Pope has stunned the owners of a Buenos Aires newspaper kiosk, by phoning directly to cancel his order.

Luis Del Regno and his son Daniel delivered papers to the former cardinal's residence every weekday.

Daniel said he thought it was a prank when a caller earlier this week introduced himself as "Cardinal Jorge".

Jorge Maria Bergoglio became the first Latin American Pope when he was elected on 13 March after the shock resignation of Benedict XVI.

He chose the name Francis in honour of Francis of Assisi - the 13th century Italian saint who spurned a life of luxury to work with the poor.

'Always with us'

Each Sunday, the archbishop of Buenos Aires would come and pick up the paper himself at 05:30 before catching a bus to distribute tea to sick people in the suburb of Lugano, said Luis Del Regno.

When Daniel Del Regno answered the phone on Monday, he could not believe it was the newly-elected Pope, the Catholic News Agency reported.

"'Seriously, it's Jorge Bergoglio, I'm calling you from Rome,'" the Pope had told him.

"I was in shock, I broke down in tears and didn't know what to say," Daniel Del Regno told Argentine daily La Nacion. "He thanked me for delivering the paper all this time and sent best wishes to my family."

"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."

Daniel Del Regno said he had asked Cardinal Bergoglio before he left for Rome if he thought he would be elected in the secret conclave.

"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.

The former archbishop had booked a return ticket to Buenos Aires where he was expecting to lead Easter services next weekend.

Instead, as Pope Francis, will celebrate Mass on Holy Thursday in St Peter's Basilica, and will wash the feet of prisoners in a youth detention centre in Rome, continuing a pre-Easter practice he began while archbishop of Buenos Aires.

Normally feet-washing Masses before Easter are held in the Vatican or a Rome basilica.

Luis Del Regno said he had "thousands of stories" about the new Pope, including the fact that he used to collect all the rubber bands that were wrapped around his newspapers.

"At the end of the month, he always brought them back to me," said Mr Del Regno. "All 30 of them!"

The new Pope has already stamped his humble style on the papacy - spurning a special car to take a bus with his cardinals after he was elected, and insisting on returning to his Rome hotel the next day to pay his own bill.

He has called for the Roman Catholic Church to be closer to ordinary people, especially the poor and disadvantaged.

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