After Pope Francis left America in the Papal jet (Shepherd One) he immediately contacted his closest friend in the Vatican – a witty and skinny, Italian gardener named Giuseppe Bartolenni. “Seppe” as the pope affectionally refers to him is one of the longest-employed and beloved residents of Vatican City.
And he’s also one of the very few people that Pope Francis invites up to his private living quarters – to share a glass of wine and discuss the secret goings-on of Vatican City.
And sometimes, with two glasses of wine…or maybe, even three.
“SEPPE!” Screamed Pope Francis into the Lear jet’s cell phone. “Can you hear me now?”
Pope Francis is still of the tin can and string communication world. He believes the farther the string stretches the louder he has to speak.
“Ya…ya! Jorge…is that you?”
“Si…si, Seppe. It is good to hear your voice!”
“How was your trip to America, my friend?”
“Very good, very good. Interesting, though, but a bit surreal.”
“How was New York City? Did you like it in the Big Apple?”
The Pope gasped and hesitated a bit, then said, “Well, it was..how can I say…stralimitata!”
Giuseppe’s head nodded quizzically into the phone. He had never heard that word before.
“Beyond limits, my friend. The people are very exuberant in New York City!”
“Oh.” Snickered Seppe, “You mean like the bull who tries to grab itself by the horns?”
“Ya…ya…” Francis laughed, as if acknowledging an inside joke that only he and Seppe were privy to.
“They go here and they go there and look like they want to go to other places…like where no man has gone before.”
Giuseppe snickered, then said, “My friend…you need to stop watching old Star Trek reruns from the seventies.”
“What do you mean, Seppe?”
“Never mind, Jorge.”
Giuseppe’s voice turned more serious. “I see you are ruffling many birds’ feathers in America, Francis.”
Pope Francis became startled. Giuseppe never addressed him by his papal’s name unless it was a matter of divine relevance.
“Oh, what do you mean, Seppe?”
“They are already saying in America that you are a radical Pope. Some of your Catholic flock are calling you a traitor and a socialist.”
Pope Francis cocked his head back and leaned over in his chair and appeared concerned. “Why would they say that, Seppe?”
“I don’t know. Maybe it’s because of that climate thing you keep talking about.”
Pope Francis laughed. Once again, climate change and its debate stirs the emotions of many of his flock.
“What…the weather? In America, everywhere you go people talk about the weather, Seppe. That’s all they do. You can’t watch a news program over here without getting a new weather report every five minutes. They have more weather reports on TV than they do commercials. It’s ridiculous. I would think they would like me talking about the weather.”
“Seppe, why is it different when I talk about the weather?”
“Francis, it’s very different when you talk about it.”
Giuseppe hesitated, then said, “Because you’re the Pope. People think you know secret stuff about the weather. You know…like when it’s going to rain next year or snow in Jerusalem and stuff like that.”
“I know, but they think because you’re the Pope…that God gives you important inside weather information.”
“Really?” Francis asked smiling. “They really believe that?”
Francis let that soak in a moment. Speaking at the United Nations definitely got everyone’s attention. But he had no idea Catholics were taking his climate change speech so personally.
“Seppe…what else are they saying?”
Seppe decided to change the subject. “Did you get some American pizza?”
“No…no…the American Secret Service is a pain in the ass. They don’t let you go anywhere. But, when I went to see the Little Sisters of the Poor, I asked them to sneak me a slice of pizza.”
“Yes, they did. It was good. A bit cheesy, though. They make pizza very different here than back in Rome.”
“I see. How many people come out to see you, Jorge?”
“I don’t know…many thousands…maybe?”
“They are saying over a million, Jorge. They say you are bigger than a rock star!”
Pope Francis raised his head and closed his eyes. “Seppe…rockstars are only as good as their last song. So I don’t know how long my message to them is going to play in their ears.”
“Probably not for long, Jorge. That’s just the way the world is, my friend. Tomorrow it will be business as usual. The world today is like a time warp always changing speed rapidly.”
Seppe hesitated, he thought he heard Francis groan a bit.
“But take it from your friend who is a gardener. You can’t plant a seed and expect it to grow right away and all by itself. You have to keep feeding it and give it plenty of water.”
Pope Francis thought about that for a moment. “Yes, Seppe, you are right. Just like a shepherd needs to constantly tend to his flock, right?”
There were a few brief moments of silence from both men. Giuseppe sensed that what he just said was weighing heavily on Pope Francis.
“Did I look cool in my Pope Mobile?”
“You looked wonderful, Jorge. Fiat is very happy with you too.”
Pope Francis smiled – at least somebody was happy about his visit to America.
Joseph E. Rathjen is an Opinion Writer and pollster at 1World Online – America’s Fastest Growing Social Research Engine.