Since assuming the office, Pope Francis has been trying very hard to change the public image of the stodgy ol' Catholic Church by ramping up the charm offensive. Exhibit A: This awesome photo of the pope actually sitting down and eating lunch with clearly overjoyed Vatican staffers, joining them for a Friday meal of fish, pasta, french fries and grilled tomatoes.
Image Credit: 360nobs.com
Vatican news service L'Osservatore Romano reported that the visit was a total surprise for everyone but Francis himself, who bounded in with no prior notice for around 40 minutes of chatter with five Vatican warehouse employees. The pope apparently discussed their work, his Italian heritage, the economy and soccer (particularly Francis' home team, Argentina's San Lorenzo de Almagro). While the paper is duty-bound to play up the pope's charisma, everyone there was clearly thrilled. And who wouldn't be? Just look at those smiles.
Canteen chef Franco Pai'ni said the pope took extra time to compliment the staff on the quality of the food and pose for photos, while star-struck cashier Claudia Di Giacomo told Catholic News Service that she couldn't bring herself to ring up his bill.
It was "totally a bolt out of the blue. Who'd have thought! The pope coming to eat with us? Hah! We were all caught off guard, but it was one of the best things that could happen to you," said Pai'ni.
Francis might only be a year into his papacy, but he's already been much more successful at PR than his elderly predecessor Benedict XVI, who was unable to take an activist role partly due to his advanced age and deteriorating health.
If you're eager for the pope to cross the Atlantic Ocean, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput recently said that Francis will visit Philadelphia next year. People are already speculating whether the pope will continue his surprise lunches with a cheesesteak at Geno's.