Pope Francis takes a break from the Vatican to visit local record store

Add spotting the pope at a local record shop to the perks of living in Rome.

In this image from video made available by Javier Martinez Brocal of Rome Reports, Pope Francis leaves a record shop in Rome, Jan. 11, 2022. (Javier Martinez Brocal/Rome Reports via AP)

VATICAN CITY (RNS) — Pope Francis made a surprise visit to a local record store on Tuesday afternoon (Jan. 11), adding music appreciation and support for small businesses to his long list of concerns as pontiff.

Stereosound, near the Pantheon in downtown Rome, was a frequent stop for Francis when he was a priest and later archbishop when he came on business to the Vatican from his native Argentina.

According to the owners of the record store, who expressed “immense joy” at the pope’s brief visit, Francis had promised them that he would return. He finally managed to keep his word despite his busy schedule on a cold January afternoon. 

The pope was spotted by the Vatican reporter Javier Martínez-Brocal, who quickly posted the now viral black and white photo on Twitter.

Francis, wearing an FFP2 mask, stayed in the shop for no longer than 12 minutes, where he blessed the recent structural improvements the owners had made. The owners gave the pope a CD recording, which he was seen holding on his way out. The Vatican did not reveal the name of the recording.

Francis has spoken in the past about his appreciation for classical music. In a 2013 interview with the Rev. Antonio Spadaro, Francis talked about his love for Mozart, calling the composer’s Mass in C minor “unsurpassable.”

The pope singled out one part of the Mass in C minor, “Et Incarnatus Est,” in the interview, saying that it “lifts you to God.”

On other occasions, Francis has praised classical composers such as Beethoven and Bach. He has also voiced his appreciation for the lyrical tunes of the Argentine soprano Haudée Dabusti. The pope has also not been shy about sharing his enthusiasm for tango, which he listened to — and occasionally danced — in his native Argentina.

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This isn’t the first time the pope dropped into a local business in Rome. In 2015 he shocked a Roman optician when he came in unannounced to purchase new frames for his eyeglasses, and a year later, he visited a shop not far from the Vatican to buy new shoes.

Nor is Francis alone among his immediate predecessors in occasionally feeling the need to escape the walled Vatican City State. A sports enthusiast, the now St. Pope John Paul II would often drive to the mountains to ski and enjoy the fresh air, while Pope Benedict XVI was reported to have visited friends in and around Rome.

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