Vatican City, Dec 10, 2019 / 12:00 pm
Imagine that your cell phone rings, and the display says the call is from a “private number.” You expect it to be a telemarketer. But instead, when you answer, you hear a man with an Argentine accent say: “This is Francis. I received your letter.”
That phone call happened to Daniel Ibanez, the CNA and EWTN News Vatican photographer, on an ordinary weekday morning in December 2018.
“I effectively stayed frozen, because I was speaking with the pope,” Ibanez told CNA. “He said: ‘I would like to invite you to the Mass at Casa Santa Marta on Dec. 20, 2018, which will be the last I publicly celebrate in the Vatican [before Christmas].’”
Ibanez had sent a letter to Pope Francis two months prior, in October 2018, telling him about his experience as a young Catholic from Palencia, Spain, living and working in Italy as a photographer for a Catholic media organization.
He had also expressed his desire for the opportunity to experience Pope Francis as an ordinary Catholic, since Ibanez is always working – that is, taking photos – during papal Masses and events.
The 27-year-old Ibanez said he was touched and surprised that during their phone call, which lasted about five minutes, Pope Francis asked his pardon for not responding to his letter sooner.
The pope also gave him the directions for what to do in two days to attend the private Mass at the Vatican’s guesthouse.
“He repeated what I should do four times, like a grandfather. Because I was not understanding. My brain was really frozen... I was speaking with the pope on my cellphone!” Ibanez said.