Papal calls to cloistered nuns are hit or miss

Nuns carrying an Argentine flag smile after Pope Francis leads Angelus at Vatican

Nuns carrying an Argentine national flag as they attended Pope Francis’ first Angelus in St. Peter’s Square March 17, 2013. (CNS photo/Paul Hanna, Reuters)

VATICAN CITY — It’s hit or miss — even for the pope — when calling a cloistered monastery. Pope Francis had much better luck today when he phoned a small community of nuns in southern Italy.

Apparently in today’s conversation with the Italian nuns, he joked about not reaching a real person when he called the Carmelite nuns in Cordoba, Spain, last week.

“My congratulations because you answered right away. When I called the convent in Barcelona (sic) I got an answering machine,” the pope reportedly told Sister Maria Gonzalez, the 48-year-old Guatemalan mother superior of the St. James Major monastery of Palo del Colle in Bari.

The Italian paper La Gazzetta del Mezzogiorno reported that the pope called the Olivetan sisters right when they were preparing lunch around 12:30. Seventy-year-old Sister Paula answered the phone in the kitchen while the others were at the stove, she told the paper.

At first they thought it was a prank call, but the pope assured them with his blessings and prayers for a happy new year. Sister Maria said she was so flustered she couldn’t even speak in her native Spanish with the Argentine pope.

The pope’s reported remarks today were referring to another instance of him poking fun during a call last week to the Discalced Carmelites of Lucena in Cordoba, Spain.

When no one at that cloistered monastery answered his call, the answering machine kicked in.

The pope left the following message which you can hear here:

“What are the nuns doing that they can’t answer? This is Pope Francis, I wish to greet you at this end of the year. I will see if I can call you later. May God bless you!”

He did call later and he spoke with the prioress for 15 minutes.

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