Thou shalt not steal. But if it’s a Pope-on-priest crime, it would seem that the divine mandate to keep your sticky fingers to yourself does not apply.
Francis revealed his petty theft sin today during an informal chat with Roman priests on a topic of mercy. Perhaps thinking of his own need for absolution, the Holy Father told the story of when he stole from a casket and ripped a rosary cross right off a dead priest’s body.
Francis said a priest known as the “great confessor” from Buenos Aires, who had listened to the confessions of diocesan priests and even gave ear to the sins of Pope John Paul II when he visited Argentina, had died, and Francis paid him a visit.
To "fleece" the flock evidently.
When the priest died, Francis visited his open casket to pray, and said he was stunned that no well wishers had laid any flowers out.
"This man forgave the sins of all the priests of Buenos Aires, but not a single flower?" Francis recalled. Francis purchased a bouquet of roses, returned to the casket, and noticed the shiny rosary that had been arranged in the dead priest's hand.
And Francis wanted it. (My Preciousss... perhaps he whispered in his best Gollum voice.)
"Immediately there came to mind the thief we all have inside ourselves and while I arranged the flowers I took the cross and with just a bit of force I removed it," Francis unabashedly said. "And in that moment I looked at him and I said 'Give me half your mercy.'"
Francis now keeps that cross in a little pouch under his cassock robe.
"And whenever a bad thought comes to mind about someone, my hand goes here, always," he said, gesturing to his heart. "And I feel the grace, and that makes me feel better."
So evidently when Francis has an evil thought, he recalls the time when he stole from a dead guy, and this makes it all better.
Whether it’s a pre-teen in the candy bar aisle, a late teen taking a cell phone case from a mall display, a middle aged man fleecing someone’s online PayPal account via identity theft, or an old lady sneaking another bingo card, stealing is stealing.
“Let the stealer steal no more,” says Ephesians 4:28. Perhaps Pope Francis should read up on it.