Rome – The humble pope is even frugal about his eyeglasses.
Pope Francis went shopping for spectacles on Thursday and went to his favorite local optometrist.
“I don’t want a whole new set of frames, just new lenses,” the pope told Alessandro Spiezia, who owns the eyewear shop.
And he demanded to pay.
“Please, Alessandro,” he said, according to USA Today, “charge me whatever it costs.”
Accompanied by his bodyguard and some plainclothes police, he arrived at Ottica Spiezia Thursday at dusk. Spiezia, who made the pope new glasses last year, said he offered to hand-deliver the glasses to the pontiff but Pope Francis insisted in heading to the shop himself.
"I was supposed to go to the Vatican yesterday to bring them, but the pope told his secretary, 'No, I don't want Spiezia to come here, I'll go to Via del Babuino,'" a clearly emotional Spiezia said moments after the pope left with his new prescription filled.
The pope, who eschews extravagance and pretension and prefers to live modestly, also famously asked a cobbler to fix his favorite pair of shoes right after he was elected pope.
On Thursday, Francis spent less than an hour in the tiny shop. He was mobbed by an enormous crowd that had gathered outside, grabbing onto his arm as he got into the car for the quick trip back to the Vatican.
The pontiff has lamented that he can no longer come and go as he pleases: He famously rode public transport in Buenos Aires as archbishop, and has said one of the things he misses most now that he is pope is being able to go out for a pizza.
He does slip out occasionally, however, especially to visit the St. Mary Major basilica, usually on the eve of a foreign trip and upon his return home. But even when Francis renewed his Argentine passport — another mundane errand — the Argentine ambassador to the Holy See came to him, not vice versa.
Soehe, a German tourist visiting Rome with his father, said he was stunned to see the pope in the shop, trying on the glasses, especially after he waited for four hours earlier in the day, in vain, to climb to the top of St. Peter's Basilica.
"There were too many people, and also the president of Israel was visiting and there were so many police officers, so it was too much for us and we went back to the hotel," Soehe told AP.
"I told my father, 'Hey, that was better than going to St. Peter's dome: Seeing the pope in a shop trying on new glasses.'"
When Francis isn't using his glasses, he keeps them tucked into his pants pocket, unlike Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI who always handed his eyeglasses off to an aide when he didn't need them.
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.