Look what a flurry of letters to the pope may get you

VATICAN CITY — As Pope Francis gears up to go to Brazil next week, a bit of Brazil showed up on his doorstep this morning.

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Leandro Martins from Porto Alegre, Brazil, was granted an unexpected audience with Pope Francis July 18. Leandro was biking from Amsterdam to Asia. (Photo courtesy of Leandro Martins)

Leandro Martins from Porto Alegre rode into the Vatican by bicycle today on a much anticipated pit stop from his planned 6,200-mile journey from Amsterdam to Asia.

As a fellow-Latin American, Leandro said he wanted to greet the new pontiff even though he knew it was a long shot.

In one of numerous letters (about 15) he wrote to Msgr. Alfred Xuereb, the pope’s secretary, Leandro said, “I know it’s going to sound ridiculous and you are going to laugh at me but… I really would like to meet him, OK go ahead….”

Well, if they did laugh, it worked. Leandro got a call yesterday from the monsignor saying he was welcome to come to morning Mass at the pope’s residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae, followed by a meeting with the pope.

Leandro tells the tale best in the “Vatican City” entry on his blog http://www.leandrobybike.blogspot.it/  The post also contains a slideshow of shots of the pope and the traveling “gaucho” (as he calls himself), including one of the pope visiting the bicycle parked outside.

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Leandro Martins of Porto Alegre, Brazil, shows Pope Francis the bicycle he is using to trek from Amsterdam to Asia as well as the Brazilian flag he is asking the people he meets along the way to sign. (Photo courtesy of Leandro Martins).

Pointing to all the gear packed on the back of the bike, Leandro said he told the pope: “this is my house, the bed, and kitchen.”

The pope also signed Leandro’s flag, which is peppered with the  signatures of many of the people he has been meeting on his journey. The pope wrote: “Que Dios te acompane. Francisco.” (May God accompany you. Francis).

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