VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis, who encourages prelates to get closer to rank-and-file Catholics, has practiced what he preaches, taking a place early among surprised faithful in a front-row pew in St. Peter's Basilica for Mass.
The pope's presence at an early morning Mass a day earlier was completely impromptu, a Vatican spokesman said Saturday.
The spokesman, the Rev. Ciro Benedettini, said the Mass was celebrated Friday at an altar, near the entrance of the basilica and dedicated to St. Pope Pius X. When it was time to receive Communion, Benedettini said, the pope lined up along with the other faithful.
Francis arrived in the basilica without an escort and unannounced to pray, then stayed for Mass, Benedettini said.
Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano said some 70 people were attending Mass when it began. When others in the basilica noticed the pope, attendance grew, the paper said, without saying just how many.