During his audience with journalists Saturday, Francis poured on the charm, thanking journalists for their work covering the election — ‘‘and you have worked, eh?’’ he said chuckling. He urged them to view the church not as a political entity but as a ‘‘dramatically spiritual’’ human institution and learn its true nature ‘‘with its virtues and its sins.’’
‘‘The church exists to communicate this: truth, goodness and beauty personified. We are all called not to communicate ourselves, but this essential trio.’’
In a recognition that not all journalists in the room were Christian or even believers, he offered a blessing without the traditional Catholic formula or gesture, saying he would bless each one in silence ‘‘respecting your conscience, but knowing that each one of you is a child of God. May God bless you.’’
Afterwards, Francis met with some of the senior Vatican communications officials as well as a handful of journalists, including one who offered him a mate gourd, the small cup with straw that holds the traditional Argentine herbal tea that Francis loves. Those who knew him embraced him warmly.
‘‘Simple, simpatico and very direct,’’ is how Iacopo Scaramuzzi, the Vatican correspondent for the Italian news agency TMNews, described his brief greeting with the pope.
Alessandro Forlani, a visually impaired journalist for Italian RAI radio, approached the pope with his seeing eye dog Asia.
‘‘He has a special relationship with creation in the spirit of St. Francis,’’ Forlani said afterward. ‘‘I asked for a blessing for my wife and daughter at home. He added ‘a blessing for the dog too’ and bent down to bless it.’’
Daniela Petroff contributed.