Pope Francis was visiting the parish of St. Alphonso Maria dei Liguori, in the district of Justine, on the outskirts of Rome when an onlooker placed a baby lamb over his neck.
The pontiff was at the site to spend the afternoon of the Epiphany festival there where parishioners had set up a special nativity scene.
More than 200 people took part in the re-enactment, wearing period costumes and playing the parts of villagers, artisans and street sellers. People lined the sides of the road leading to the church and watched from rooftops and balconies of surrounding buildings.
According to Vatican Radio, Pope Francis greeted each of the participants and many of the parishioners who attended.
One special guest lay waiting in a small hut: a 2-month-old baby named Francesco, who had been baptized that morning and played the role of Jesus in the pageant.
A woman dressed as a shepherd placed the small lamb on Pope Francis’ shoulders. Children sang a Christmas song and gave the pope a bouquet of red roses.
At the end of his visit, Pope Francis talked about the importance of a new year beginning with Jesus, who stays by everyone’s side to overcome evil. He asked everyone to pray for children who would be born in 2014 and for all grandparents, who he said are the source of wisdom.
The priest who organizes the parish’s live Nativity scene each year said he had invited Pope Francis just a few days earlier and the pope had accepted immediately.
“The pope was so happy. He told me <<Keep it up. Don’t get discouraged>>,” Father Dario Criscuoli told journalists.
According to the Vatican newspaper, the priest said Pope Francis told him” “Surely to put something like this together you have to be crazy, but that’s OK; God likes some things that are crazy.”