Pope Francis gave his first Easter blessing to the world today.
We feel the occasion is a fitting time to consider more fully one of his first acts as leader of the Catholic church, Only a day into his new post, Pope Francis made an extraordinary gesture at his first press conference: he singled out the service dog of a visually-impaired journalist and blessed him.
We first heard about this remarkable act only hours after writing a post wondering whether Pope Francis might be a voice for animals, as his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi was more than 800 years ago.
Now we have the full story from the Italian journalist himself.
At first Alessandro Forlani was told he probably wouldn't be allowed in with his dog, a yellow Lab named Asia.
“But after a few minutes," he wrote on his Facebook page, "Vatican officials gave me the green light and I was accompanied by a Swiss guard to the audience hall. They let me sat near the first row of seats,”
While journalists lined up to greet the pontiff, Vatican officials approached Forlani, a radio reporter.
It seemed the pope had spotted Asia.
“They said that Pope Francis had asked to meet me. He had seen Asià and wanted to see both of us,” Forlani said.
Asià walked on the stage, briefly sniffed the Pope’s white dress and black shoes and then waited as Forlani talked to the pontiff.
“I asked for a blessing for my wife and daughter at home,” Forlani told Discovery News.
Then the pope stooped to caress Asia.
Forlani recalls: “He said, ‘and a special blessing for you dog too.’