It's no secret that B16 is a cat-lover -- the residence Joseph Ratzinger built on a cul-de-sac outside Regensburg in the 1970s (and still owns) is famously decorated with porcelain felines, the stories abounded shortly after his election of how, on his walks home from the Holy Office, the former CDF prefect would be followed by a single-file line of seemingly every stray in Rome, and in 2008 an unusual papal bio hit the shelves: a children's book on Benedict's life... "as told by a cat" (its foreword penned by none other than the Pope's private secretary, Msgr Georg Ganswein).
With the backdrop well known, after celebrating last month's Beatification Mass for John Henry Newman in Birmingham, Benedict was given an added treat on his stop at the city's Oratory to visit to the new blessed's room...
...a meeting with Pushkin, the community's cat, the story of which has since emerged:
After private prayer in Cardinal Newman's room the Pope descended in a lift. As the door opened, right on cue, he heard a cat mewing, and looked pleasantly surprised. The Provost ran after the Vatican TV crew and photographer who were exiting down the road and they rushed back to record the historic encounter.Speaking of the Oratory, and just in case anyone needed reminding so soon, Blessed Newman's first feast-day will be celebrated this Saturday -- the anniversary of his 1845 reception into the church.
Fr Anton Guziel, one of the community, went and fetched the half Persian black cat into the papal presence. The Pope was delighted to meet the cat sporting the Papal colours, with a yellow and white ribbon about his neck. He inquired as to Pushkins' age - he is ten years old – and told the delighted feline in German, that he was very pretty. Pushkin extended a paw to the Pope who took it smilingly. He stroked him under the chin and tickled his ears whilst Fr Anton held him. According to Fr Anton, Pushkin maintained “a dignified and prayerful silence” throughout the encounter....
Pushkin now expects to be placed on the Papal Christmas card list.
PHOTO: L'Osservatore Romano