Pope writes journalist who reported on his little Roman excursion

Robaird O’Cearbhaill
Hong Kong Correspondent

Pope Francis has several times said how he misses being out on the street. Last week he did that, to go “shopping” privately – that we know about, for only the third time that has been reported. It was the Pope’s well-known devotion to music that partly impelled him to venture out of the Vatican into the Piazza della Rotonda near the Pantheon.

However his trip was noticed, accidentally, by news agency Rome Reports, and the video and a photograph went viral. Their director, Javier Martinez-Brocal, said he was waiting for a friend at a taxi stand, when he saw a small car with Vatican number plates. It was parked outside an old record shop, notably, with police cars around. That caught his attention. 

The Pope reacted to his private trip’s media discovery later, with a note to Brocal: “One cannot deny that it was a ‘bad luck/terrible fate’ that, after taking all precautions, there was a journalist waiting for someone at the cab stop.” He made sure that this comment was accepted as whimsical irony immediately by saying: “We must not lose our sense of humor.” 

Pope Francis added that reporters “ fulfill their vocation” to journalism, “even if it means embarrassing the Pope.” And described Brocal’s post as “noble”. 

He also wrote to explain why he made his private trip, as he has commented before: “I miss being able to roam the streets like I did in Buenos Aires.” As he told the homeless persons magazine Scarp de Tenis, and Spanish radio Cope, “I enjoy visiting parishes and meeting people.” 

While the Pope was inside the shop, passerbys noticed him, drawing a crowd of mostly young people, who stared into the shop, speculating about what the Pope would buy. 

The Pope’s objective, apart from enjoying a private outing, was to bless the owner’s renovation of Stereophonics shop in Rome, The shop in the Pantheon district is a favorite one of his, from his visits to Rome as Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, his home country. 

He was seen blessing the owner, Letizia Giostra, who gave him a classical music CD. Martinez-Brocal videoed the Pope leaving the shop through his phone. Soon the video was used by Reuters and Associated Press and went viral internationally. The elderly owner and her daughter went viral, too, via social media. 

Soon after the incident, the curator of the Pope’s music collection gave an interview about it to the Italian newspaper, Corriere della Sera. The Vatican-stored collection is curated by the president of the Pontifical Council for Culture in Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi. From the Pope’s personal collection and gifts are 1278 CD’s and 19 vinyl discs. Most are classical music, Argentinian music, even Elvis Presley gospel songs and an old Edith Piaf album. 

 Pope Francis was already known as a music lover, revealing his tastes in music in several interviews. It began with opera music listening with his mother on the radio as a child, and enjoys Argentinian tango and milonga. Talking about a supreme composer, the Pope said Mozart “lifts you to God.”