Is Pope Francis sneaking out of the Vatican at night to give alms to the poor? A recent interview with Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, who works in the little-known post of Vatican "Almonor" or alms-giver, seems to suggest so.
The Irish Independent reports that the South American pontiff has encouraged Archbishop Konrad Krajeweski to be more pro-active at his job than his predecessors, including roaming the streets of Rome at night to offer help to the needy.
When asked if the pope ever accompanied him on these missions, the 50-year-old archbishop only smiled at the group of Vatican correspondents and said, "Next question, please," implying that Pope Francis had snuck out on at least one occasion before Vatican authorities told him it was a security threat.
Pope Francis, who has described himself as a priest of the streets and who was known to venture out unannounced to meet the homeless when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, had often expressed a desire to accompany the archbishop on his nocturnal sorties.
"When I say to him 'I'm going out into the city this evening', there's the constant risk that he will come with me," said the Polish cardinal.
"That's what he's like – at the beginning (of his papacy) he didn't think of the awkwardness that he might create. As archbishop of Buenos Aires, when he was known as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the future pontiff "would go out at night . . . to find people, talk with them, or buy them something to eat. He would sit with them and eat with them on the street. This is what he wants from me," he said.
"The Holy Father told me at the beginning: 'You can sell your desk. You don't need it. You need to get out of the Vatican. Don't wait for people to come ringing. You need to go out and look for the poor'."
The Vatican Almoner is a post that dates back to at least the 13th century. The alms-giving office Elemosineria Pontifica, which employs 11 people, donated €1m ($1.35m) to around 6,500 people last year.