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Pope's cold call fails when man too ill to answer

Papal staff tells family that Francis 'sends a big hug'

10 January, 13:27
Pope's cold call fails when man too ill to answer (ANSA) - Lecco, January 10 - A man too ill to answer a call from Pope Francis was told the pontiff sent "a big hug" to him and his family, the Vatican said Friday.

The pope's staff dialled Mario Stefanoni Thursday afternoon to connect him with Francis, but when Stefanoni's father Antonio answered, he said his son was not well enough to respond.

So, the pontiff's staff replied that "the Pope sends a big hug to the whole family" and promised that Francis would bless a wreath and send it to Mario, whose illness was brought to the pope's attention by his niece during a visit to the Vatican in early January. Stefanoni's brother died four years earlier of a similar medical condition. Since his election in March, Francis has acquired the nickname of the "cold-call pope" for his penchant to personally telephone the faithful unannounced.

But like everyone else, sometimes his calls don't always get through.

Francis phoned a Spanish convent on New Year's Eve but had to leave a voicemail when the nuns did not pick up, according to Spanish media.

"What are you doing that's so important you can't pick up the phone? This is Pope Francis. I wanted to wish you a Happy New Year. I'll see if I can call you back later. God bless you," said the recorded message to the Carmelite convent in Lucena, near Cordova.

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