'Hello, it's the pope': Francis calls student

Pope Francis leaves Castel Gandolfo's central square following the Assumption day mass on Aug 15, 2013. A teenager who wrote to Pope Francis got a shock when the Catholic leader called him up for a chat - the latest example of the pontiff's down-to-e
Pope Francis leaves Castel Gandolfo's central square following the Assumption day mass on Aug 15, 2013. A teenager who wrote to Pope Francis got a shock when the Catholic leader called him up for a chat - the latest example of the pontiff's down-to-earth approach. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP

VATICAN CITY (AFP) - A teenager who wrote to Pope Francis got a shock when the Catholic leader called him up for a chat - the latest example of the pontiff's down-to-earth approach.

Francis called up a journalist friend on the day of his election and even phoned a newspaper stand in Buenos Aires to cancel his subscription.

Stefano Cabizza, a 19-year-old student from Padua in north-east Italy, had sent a letter to the pope, the local Il Gazzettino daily said on Thursday.

But he said he never expected the phone to ring and a voice on the other end to say: "Hello, it's the pope".

Cabizza said that the two "laughed and chatted for eight minutes" and that Pope Francis had blessed him.

The pope, formerly the archbishop of Buenos Aires, makes many calls directly in a break with protocol under which calls are usually handled by aides or at least through the Vatican switchboard.

He recently called an Italian man who was paralysed after a car accident and who recently lost his brother.