To express his condolences, Pope Francis personally called the son of a childhood friend, Mario Verna, who died of Parkinson’s disease on December 3, 2018, in New Jersey.
“We are at the age where we are beginning to be called (to God),” the Pope said in Spanish, during his one-minute phone call, and added that he would pray for the deceased during his next mass.
That’s what Dr. Verna’s son Matthias, 49, a child psychiatrist in Scarsdale, New York, told “Today” newspaper on December 11, 2018.
Dr Verna’s three sons had always heard their father say he had a close friendship with Jorge Bergoglio, future Pope Francis, since he was a teenager. Mario Verna and Jorge Bergoglio met in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in a Catholic Action group.
Therefore, on December 4, Matthias Verna faxed a letter to the Vatican in Spanish, giving his contact details and informing the Holy Father of his father’s death.
Less than 24 hours later, while Matthias was driving his car alone, he received a phone call from an “unknown caller”. It was Pope Francis.
“I immediately recognized his voice and said, ‘Oh my word! Matthias remembers. “While I was talking with him, he was very natural, very human and very calm. “
Pope Francis told Matthias that he certainly remembers El Flaco (the “Thin”), Dr Verna’s nickname in his youth.
“As soon as I hung up, I felt my legs turn to rubber. Then I started to cry. It was overwhelming, ”continued Matthias.
“My father was known for his hospitality and his ability to interact with everyone who passed the door. He was also known for his surprises. For us, this tribute was his last little surprise, ”added Matthias.