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What’s it like when the Pope gives you his zucchetto?


Antoine Mekary | ALETEIA

Pope Francis wearing his white zucchetto

Lucía Para - published on 03/31/23

When I see the the small white cap the pope wears on display in my house, I know what I experienced was not in my plans but in God's.

I remember Wednesday, April 27, 2022, with nervousness, excitement, love, dedication, and service. At the end of the General Audience, Pope Francis greeted students working towards their master’s degree in journalism with the COPE Foundation, a non-profit of the Spanish Episcopal Conference tied to the Spanish Catholic network of radio stations.

Days before going to Rome I went on a spiritual retreat. There I told Fr. Israel, my spiritual director, that we were going to go to the Italian capital and we were going to have the great opportunity to attend the general audience of Pope Francis. At that moment, he said to me, “If you get a chance, give him a zucchetto” (referring to the small white cap the pope wears).

At first, everything seemed to be going perfectly and it was most likely that we would greet the Holy Father on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Master’s program. But with each passing day, the prospects were getting worse. News kept coming out about the Pope’s state of health, so the chances of the encounter were no longer so certain. Even so, I continued to trust that all of this was in God’s plan.

The Pope in an audience on March 15, 2023

On Tuesday of that same week, the day before the Audience, the pain in his knee – which prevents him from walking unassisted – forced him to cancel all his commitments.

The possibility crossed my mind that he might not be able to greet people as he traditionally does after the audience, or that he might cancel it altogether.

Even so, I decided to go and buy the zucchetto. “If we have the opportunity to give it to him, I’ll do it. And, if by any chance, we cannot be with him, I’ll have to return to Rome to give it to him some other time,” I told myself.

That afternoon I explained my plan to Eva Fernandez, the COPE correspondent in Rome. She told me that it was a very nice thing to do and that, on other occasions, when someone has given the Pontiff a zucchetto, he has taken off the one he’s wearing, put on the other person’s for a moment, and then given it back to them.

The key moment of the zucchetto

On Wednesday morning I woke up very nervous. We didn’t know where we’d be located during the audience until we arrived at St. Peter’s Square. Thanks to God’s providence, we were placed in the front row, which meant that we got to see Francis up close and greet him. All the Master’s students were able to listen to the Pope’s words and even, in my case, to return home with a priceless gift.

After the audience, the Pope approached us and I was fortunate enough to exchange my zucchetto with him. When he walked in front of me, I handed him the new zucchetto I had bought the day before, and told him that everything had all been a gift from Heaven, hardly uttering a word despite having been thinking all week about how to address the Holy Father.

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A post shared by LUCÍA PARA (@lucia.para)

It was an incredible experience, as I thought he was going to return the zucchetto to me. However, that was not the case! God wanted me to keep the Pope’s zucchetto. Even today I still get emotional thinking about that moment when I held the Pope’s white cap in my hands.

Right now I have no more words than these to describe what I felt at that moment, and what I still feel when I see the zucchetto on display in my house. The only thing I know is that what I experienced was not in my plans, but in God’s.

PopePope Francis
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