By Salvatore Cernuzio
“What I miss most in this Diocese is not being able to ‘wander the streets,’ as I did in Buenos Aires, walking from one parish to another.”
Pope Francis made this remark in a letter to Spanish journalist Javier Martínez Brocal, the director of the Rome-based news website Rome Reports.
On 11 January, the reporter was passing through Rome’s Pantheon area and saw the Pope leaving “Stereosound,” a record store whose owners he has known since his days as the Archbishop of Buenos Aires.
The black and white photo of the Pope exiting the “disc-store of the Pantheon” – as local Romans call the locale – carrying a classical music record given to him by the owner of the store, Letizia Giostra, and her daughter Tiziana, went viral on social networks within minutes.
The Pope himself saw the photo and thanked Brocal for this “noble” post.
At the same time, he wrote, “one cannot deny that it was a ‘terrible fate’ (a misfortune, ed.) that, after taking all precautions, there was a journalist waiting for someone at the cab stop.”
The Pope immediately clarified in his letter that this remark was a light-hearted joke: “We must not lose our sense of humor.”
He also encouraged reporters to “fulfill their vocation” as journalists, “even if it means embarrassing (‘mettere in difficoltà’) the Pope.”
Pope Francis is no stranger to trips ‘out-on-the-town’, having visited an optician’s store in 2015 and then an orthopedic store in 2016.
He had ventured out late Tuesday afternoon to the music store in the heart of Rome to bless the recently renovated premises. He chatted for about ten minutes with the owner, an old acquaintance of his from the days when he stayed as Archbishop of Buenos Aires in the “House of the Clergy” in Via della Scrofa.
Since the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Francis has revealed a nostalgia for being able to move freely about the city.
“I miss going out into the streets; I truly long for it, the tranquility of walking down the street, or going to a pizzeria to eat a good pizza… I have always been ‘of the street’,” he revealed to the Argentine newspaper La voz del pueblo in 2015.
And two years later, in 2017, in an interview with Scarp de tenis, a magazine run by homeless persons in Milan and supported by Caritas, he repeated, “There is only one thing I miss very much: the possibility of going out and wandering around on the street. I enjoy visiting parishes and meeting people.” He also repeated this desire in the recent interview with the Spanish radio station Cope.