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Holy hitch hikers: Pope Francis gives an old friend a lift

Argentine priest spotted in crowd, invited onto Popemobile

Holy hitch hikers: Pope Francis gives an old friend a lift

Picture: Vatican Insider/La Stampa

Andres Beltramo Alvarez for Vatican Insider/La Stampa
Vatican City

January 10, 2014

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“Come! Hop in!” All it took was these two words to surprise an old acquaintance Francis spotted amid the sea of faces present in St. Peter’s Square for yesterday’s General Audience. The familiar face was Fabián Báez, a parish priest from Francis' beloved Buenos Aires. Without giving it a second thought, the Pope invited the priest to hop aboard the Popemobile, which he did without hesitation. “This picture’s going to make it round the world!” Francis said laughing.

And capture the world’s attention it certainly did. International media described it as another of Pope Francis’ gestures of closeness. Not many know, however, what the Pope whispered in the priest’s ear when the two embraced: “How much fun this is!” Fr. Báez lets Vatican Insider in on the details of that car ride round St. Peter’s.

How did your encounter with the Pope come about?

I only arrived in Rome on Tuesday night and on Wednesday morning I had no way of attending the Pope’s catechesis because I didn’t know where I could get hold of the admission tickets. So I went to the Square and stood behind the crowd control barriers hoping to see him go by in the Popemobile.

When he went past he saw me saw me and recognised me. I shouted really loud but it’s hard to make oneself heard. I was surprised at how much affection people showed the Pope. He saw me and said to me: “What are you doing here?” I shouted out that I had come to see him. The Popemobile continued then turned around and stopped. He called out to me, got me to hop over the barriers and said to me: “Come! Hop in!”

I thought he was going to get me a seat or a better place further on but instead he said: “Come! Hop into the Popemobile!” I greeted him, gave him a hug and got in. I couldn’t believe what was happening.”

Then what happened?

He laughed and said to me: “This picture’s going to make it round the world.” I had slight difficulty jumping over the barrier so he made a joke about it.

“Next time we’ll make the barrier’s smaller,” he said, or something to that effect. He was very kind; he let me into the vehicle and asked for a seat to be placed near his. Then he said: “Do you have to go?” to which I said I would stay until the end. He replied: “Ok, I’ll speak to you in a bit.”

He did. We talked for a few minutes, he asked me about some people we both knew and we chatted about some personal things. I haven’t seen or spoken to him since he became Pope so it was a pretty exciting moment.”

Full Story: Francis gives priest a ride on the Popemobile: “Come! Hop in!”

Source: Vatican Insider/La Stampa

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