BOSTON – Two Boston College students studying in Rome came away with a precious memento after an up-close encounter with Pope Francis.
Katie Rich, of Minnetonka, Minnesota, and Ethan Mack, of Portland, Maine, got to the Vatican early enough on Wednesday to grab a spot along the barricades for an audience with the pope.
They brought with them a white zucchetto — or skullcap — they had purchased the day before for the equivalent of about $68.
As the pope's vehicle passed them they held out the skullcap, which had a note inside that read "Boston College loves our Jesuit Pope!"
"I simply extended my arm out with the zucchetto. He saw it after he had already passed at the last second and ordered the driver to stop," Mack wrote on a Facebook posting.
A guard took the skullcap from the junior philosophy majors at the Jesuit university.
Pope Francis read the note, checked the skullcap for size, nodded and smiled at them, then put it on, they said.
In exchange, he handed the zucchetto he had been wearing to the guard, who gave it to Rich and Mack.
The pontiff wore the zucchetto he received from the BC students at his Wednesday Mass.
"The best part of the whole encounter was just seeing Pope Francis smile at us," Rich told The Boston Globe. "He radiates joy in a way unlike anyone else."
The pope has made similar exchanges with other visitors to Rome.