Pope Francis: Phone Calls Offer Encouragement to Followers

Tuesday, 10 Sep 2013 11:24 AM

By Alexandra Ward

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Pope Francis is being hailed as the "Cold Call Pope" after making several phone calls to offer words of encouragement to his followers, but the Vatican is worried after an impostor purporting to be the pontiff reportedly made similar calls last week.

In his latest move to interact with the faithful, Pope Francis reportedly made a series of phone calls this month to people in distress who wrote to him explaining their hardships, the New York Times reported.

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In one letter, a pregnant Italian woman vented about her troubles with her married boyfriend who was pressuring her to get an abortion. The woman, Anna Romano, said she received a phone call Sept. 3 from a man who said, "Hello, Anna, this is Pope Francis."

"I was petrified," Romano told Il Messaggero, Rome's daily newspaper. "I recognized his voice and I knew right away that it really was the pope."

She said Francis offered her words of support and even offered to baptize the baby when it's born next year.

A woman in Argentina who had been raped by a police officer said she, too, received a call, and a man who wrote to the pope about a series of family tragedies said the phone rang for him as well.

"The pope said that [my] letter had made him cry," the man, Michele Ferri of Pesaro, Italy, told the Times.

Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican's spokesman, confirmed these papal calls but denied two other reports claiming that Francis had called Syrian President Bashar al-Assad last week and also contacted a distraught gay French man.

Argentinean newspaper Clarín reported Thursday that Pope Francis had spoken with Assad in an attempt to mediate the tension between Syria and the United States. The Vatican insisted the report was false.

Then, on Friday, a 25-year-old French man said he also had gotten a call.

"Your homosexuality, it doesn’t matter," the pope reportedly told him.

The Vatican also denied that Francis had made that call.

"I can deny with certainty that the pope has called a young man in France," Lombardi told Italian news outlets. "There is always the risk that people pretend to be the pope over the phone."

Unlike his predecessors, Pope Francis has embraced technology and sought to forge a more interactive bond with his followers, as evidenced by his impressive Twitter audience.

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Related stories:

Pope Francis' Life to Be Featured in Biopic

Francis: 'I Did Not Want to be Pope'

Nostradamus, St. Malachy Predict Pope Francis Will Be Last Pontiff  

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