Pope breaks protocol again by inviting friend for spin in popemobile


TONY GENTILE/REUTERS

Fabian Baez, a priest from a church in downtown Buenos Aires, sits in the popemobile as Pope Francis arrives to lead the Wednesday general audience in Saint Peter’s square at the Vatican January 8, 2014.

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VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis broke with papal protocol once again Wednesday, inviting an old friend for a spin in his panoramic white car during his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square.

The Rev. Fabian Baez, a parish priest in Francis’ hometown of Buenos Aires, didn’t have a VIP ticket granting him a seat close to the altar or a spot where the pope would chat with well-wishers. But as soon as Francis saw Baez in the crowd of several thousand people, the pope signaled for Vatican gendarmes to help Baez jump the barricade.

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The priest was given an unexpected lift by Pope Francis, who allowed him to jump on the back of the popemobile for a special ride.

TONY GENTILE/REUTERS

The priest was given an unexpected lift by Pope Francis, who allowed him to jump on the back of the popemobile for a special ride.

Francis then invited Baez to hop aboard his car, and the parish priest accompanied Francis through the square as the pope waved to well-wishers and kissed babies.

Baez said he was shocked by Francis’ invitation, telling reporters afterward: “I said to myself `What am I doing here? Mamma mia!'”

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Pope Francis waves to faithfulls as he arrives in St Peter's Square at the Vatican to lead his weekly general audience.

GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images

Pope Francis waves to faithfulls as he arrives in St Peter’s Square at the Vatican to lead his weekly general audience.

“The pope laughed and said `Come, sit down, sit down!’ And he continued to greet the people and kiss babies. I was very moved.”

Baez said the two had known each other since the 1990s; the former Jorge Mario Bergoglio was archbishop of the Argentine capital before being named pope.

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Francis was in particularly good spirits at Wednesday’s audience, entertained by a circus troupe and greeted by Italy’s Sampdoria soccer team, who presented the soccer-mad pope with yet another jersey.

Francis has added a bit of spontaneity to the Vatican’s staid ways. He lives in the Vatican hotel, not the Apostolic Palace. He eschewed the armored popemobile for a simple Fiat during his trip to Brazil. And when he has left the Vatican, he has done so with a minimal security detail and no fancy motorcade.


Nation / World – NY Daily News

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