Pope's cold calling has everyone talking

Francis likes phoning

Pope Francis already has distinguished himself with his down-to-earth style. Now he is both unnerving the Vatican and delighting the faithful by spontaneously calling people, earning the nickname "the Cold Call Pope," reports The New York Times.

Earlier this month, he called to comfort a pregnant Italian woman whose married boyfriend had unsuccessfully pressured her to have an abortion. The woman, who is divorced and will be a single mother, wrote to the Pope, fearing she had fallen afoul of the church. Not knowing the correct address, she marked the envelope "Holy Father Pope Francis, Vatican City, Rome." The Pope offered to personally baptise the baby when it is born next year, according to an account in La Stampa, a Turin-based daily.

In August, Francis phoned a woman in Argentina who had been raped by a local police officer. The Pope told her that she was not alone and that she should have faith in the justice system, according to an Argentine television news report rebroadcast in Italy.

On August 7, Michele Ferri of Pesaro, Italy, answered his phone and was startled to hear, "Hello Michele, it's Pope Francis." Ferri said in a telephone interview he had thought it was a joke.

"But then he spoke about the letter that I'd written, a letter I hadn't told anyone about, not even my mother or my wife, and I knew that it was him," Ferri said.

He had written to the Pope, he said, after a "series of tragedies in the family," most recently the death of his brother, who was killed in a petrol station robbery in early June. "The Pope said that the letter had made him cry," he said.

The 10-minute phone call "offered comfort and hope, to better face life without my brother," he said. "Of course the pain remains, but it was a great emotion to hear his voice." Later in August, Ferri said, the Pope also called his mother to offer words of support.

While the papal phoning has been widely greeted with delight, it is also proving somewhat perilous, with unsubstantiated news reports of calls supposedly made by Francis - including one last week to President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, and another to a young distraught French gay man. The Vatican denied that the Pope had made those calls. Some Vatican officials are expressing concern that individuals are impersonating Francis to advance political or ideological agendas.

Other Vatican analysts fear that the advent of papal phone calls could spawn disillusion among those not blessed by a call.

FULL STORY Pope's on the line and everyone's talking (NYT)

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