Vatican City

Pope taps phone power to connect, console

'The best day of my life' says recent caller

Pope taps phone power to connect, console

(By Christopher Livesay) Vatican City, August 27 - Since his nomination in March, Pope Francis has charted new terrain in a number of areas, becoming the first pontiff from Latin America, the first Jesuit, and the first to choose the name Francis, just to name his first day on the throne of St Peter. Now more than five months later, he's become the first known pope with a passion for the telephone, dialing up those faithful who somehow touch him with a personal letter, and often dialing up switchboards when a number isn't handy. The latest instance was reported Tuesday, when an Argentinian rape victim said in a radio interview that she was "touched by God" when the former archbishop of Buenos Aires rang her on Sunday. Alejandra Pereyra, 44, who was raped by a policeman, said that she wrote to the pope several weeks ago asking for help. Pereyra said that "at about 3:30 pm, my cell phone rang. When I asked who it was, he responded, 'The pope'". The 30-minute conversation was about "faith and trust," she added. "The pope listened to what I said with much attention. "Now I will do everything possible to get to the Vatican. "He said he would receive me". Apparently on the same day, Francis telephoned the mother of a slain Marche gas-station owner for the second time since he was shot dead in June. "Signora Rosalba, I'm Pope Francis," the pontiff said, according to the brother of the victim, who wrote to the pope about the "senseless" murder. Andrea Ferri was shot in his SUV June 4. Vatican watchers associate the unprecedented phone calling with the pope's common touch, rivaling even 'the people's pope' John XXIII, according to many, by such outpourings of emotion as embracing and kissing attendants at Angelus masses in St Peter's Square, and once even exchanging his papal cap for a white hat proffered by a gleeful onlooker. In addition to making his own calls, the pope reportedly makes his own bed at the Saint Martha's House residence inside the Vatican, where he has eschewed the luxurious trappings of the papal apartments since his enthronement in favor of mingling with staff and visitors. Earlier this month, 19-year-old engineering student Stefano Cabizza received the surprise of his life when he received a call from the pope in response to a letter. Cabizza, from Padua, said he remained speechless for several seconds after the pope introduced himself, adding that the two of them laughed and joked about the pope's first failed attempt to call, forcing him to try a second time. The student said Francis blessed him, and that he felt an immediate sense of strength afterwards on what he considered to be "the best day of my life".

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