Local priest gets audience with 'pope of the people'

2013-06-15T19:00:00Z 2013-06-16T18:29:05Z Local priest gets audience with 'pope of the people'Marc Chase marc.chase@nwi.com, (219) 662-5330 nwitimes.com
June 15, 2013 7:00 pm  • 

Like many people who meet Pope Francis I, a region priest says he was struck by the pontiff's humanity when the two met last month in Rome.

For the Rev. Joseph Vamos, of Winfield, it was the opportunity of a lifetime when he received a private audience with Pope Francis while visiting the Vatican in May.

A face-to-face meeting with the pope wasn't in the plan when Vamos planned a trip to visit a fellow priest in Rome. But that friend secured an invitation for a private audience, which put Vamos in line to exchange a handshake and pleasantries with Pope Francis.

"I ended up in the front row of the gathering, and he greeted me personally," said Vamos, a longtime region priest and chaplain for some region police and fire departments.

"I told him people in America love him — that Catholics and people who are not Catholics love him," Vamos said.

Since his coronation earlier this year, Pope Francis I has galvanized his name as a pontiff of the common people, placing an emphasis on poor relief and choosing the more humble lodgings of the Vatican guest house over the ornate Apostolic Palace.

"He is so down to Earth," Vamos said. "He wears these old black shoes and dresses more plainly than past popes. He's truly a people person."

While in Rome, Vamos also was able to help deliver Communion to the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square on Pentecost Sunday.

But the highlight was meeting the pope, who Vamos said took his time and listened intently.

And the highlight of the meeting itself?

"I gave him a Starlight Mint — a piece of candy," Vamos said. "I told him what it was, and he smiled and put it in his pocket."

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