Journalist Alessandro Forlani wasn’t sure he’d even be allowed in when the new pope met with the world media on Saturday. Guards had told him he most likely wouldn’t because of his guide dog, however Vatican officials let him and his guide dog Asia in and after the pope’s thank you speech to the media Pope Francis asked to meet Forlani and Asia.
Forlani is a visually impaired radio journalist and showed up on Saturday at the Vatican’s auditorium for Pope Francis’ address to the media. Accompanying him was his guide dog, a yellow Labrador Retriever named Asia. “As I waited in line to enter the hall, the security guards told me that most likely I wouldn’t be allowed to get in with the dog,” Forlani wrote on his Facebook page. “But after a few minutes, Vatican official gave me the green light and I was accompanied by a Swiss guard to the audience hall.” Forlani and Asia were given a seat in the front rows.
After the pope delivered his speech a selected group of media went before him. As they lined up Vatican officials came up to Forlani. “They said that Pope Francis had asked to meet me. He had seen Asia and wanted to see both us,” said Forlani. “He broke the ceremonial rules as my presence on stage with Asia wasn’t previously arranged.”
Asia walked by Forlani’s side and approached pope Francis, giving his white robe a brief sniff and then patiently waited while Forlani spoke with the pope. Forlani asked the pope for a blessing for his wife and daughter. The pope wanted to make sure Asia also got a blessing,“ He said, ‘and a special blessing for your dog too,’” Recalled Forlani. The pope reached down and stroked the yellow Lab. The pope’s attention and affection toward Asia is fitting for the name he took as St. Francis is the patron saint of animals.