VATICAN CITY – Schoolchildren have turned out in an exceptionally huge crowd for a joyful afternoon with a playful Pope Francis at the Vatican.
Students traveling from throughout Italy overflowed from St. Peter's Square, packing several blocks leading to the Tiber river. Vatican Radio put the turnout at 300,000.
In his popemobile, Francis rode beyond Vatican City's borders to greet his admirers, cheering him on a sunny Saturday. Some children tossed scarves at him. He teasingly bunched them up and threw them back.
Francis has said he wants a joyful church.
Adults handed over children to the pontiff when he rode by so he could plant a kiss on their head.
"How pretty! You made it?" Francis said when a girl gave him a drawing. He thanked another child for a T-shirt.