Cookies, sombrero and a shoe shine: Even reporters give pope gifts

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

THE PAPAL FLIGHT TO HAVANA (CNS) — Making his 12th trip abroad, Pope Francis
was accustomed to collecting interview requests, notes and gifts from the
journalists who travel on the plane with him.

his flight to Cuba Feb. 12 had a unique moment. Noel Diaz, who lives in Los
Angeles and was covering the trip for ESNE — a Catholic radio and television
network — asked the pope if he could shine his shoes “in memory of all
those people who struggle daily to put bread on their tables.”

told the pope that when he was growing up in Tijuana, Mexico, his mother told
him he would have to delay his first Communion because she could not afford to
buy him black pants and a white shirt. Although not quite 8 years old, Diaz
said he went out with a shoe-shine box to earn the money for the clothes and
was able to receive his first Communion with his peers.

pope reluctantly conceded to Diaz, and the man knelt in the aisle of the plane
and brushed the pope’s shoe. Then he gave the pope a shoe-shine kit.

Alazraki, a correspondent for the Mexican Televisa and the journalist who has
done the most papal trips, gave the pope a large sombrero decorated with his
coat of arms, his image and the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

had given similar hats to St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI when she
traveled with them to her homeland. The pope put the sombrero on briefly and
smiled for the cameras.

Ponguta Puerto, a radio journalist from Colombia, gave Pope Francis two golden
bags of Colombia’s finest coffee and asked the pope when he would visit the
South American country. If talks between the government and opposition groups
continue and a peace treaty is signed, the pope said, “I will go next

pope also received a white rose, a box of homemade chocolate chip cookies and a
brand new zucchetto or scullcap. He put it on his head for a few minutes, then
gave it back to the TV correspondent as a souvenir.

is his custom at the beginning of a trip, Pope Francis thanked the traveling
press corps and semi-apologized for the crazy hours they would work in Cuba
Feb. 12 and in Mexico through Feb. 17. 

“The schedule is full,” he

the planned stop of three-and-a-half hours in Cuba complicated matters, Pope
Francis told reporters the meeting there with the head of the Russian Orthodox
Church “was very much desired by my brother (Patriarch) Kirill and

speaking of Mexico, Pope Francis said, “My greatest desire is to
pause” in front of the tilma, the cloak bearing the image of Our Lady of

tilma “is a mystery that is studied and studied, but there are no human
explanations” for how the image was produced, the pope said. “It’s
something of God.”

greeting each member of the media one by one, Pope Francis publicly thanked
Alberto Gasparri, the main papal trip organizer who has worked at the Vatican
47 years and is about to retire.

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