Hats off to New Orleans’ own Ajani Gibson

ROME (CNS) – Ajani Gibson (far left), a member of St. Peter Claver Parish in New Orleans, is still “walking on air” this evening in Rome after a papal audience earlier today. The visit to St. Peter’s Square was organized by the CUA Campus in Rome where Gibson, a junior theology major from New Orleans, is a student this semester.

Sitting near Gibson was a woman from the United States who was hoping to trade zucchettos with Pope Francis — a tradition the new pope has embraced. Pilgrims present him with a new white skull cap, which he tries on before returning to them.

Gibson offered to help the woman get her zucchetto to the Pope.

“Pope Francis passed our section three times,” Gibson said.

“The first time, he did not notice the zucchetto because he was turned around, kissing babies. However, the head of his security noticed that I had a zucchetto and nodded to let me know that Pope Francis would pass again,” he said.

“The second time, Pope Francis saw me and the zucchetto and reached for it, but the popemobile was moving too fast. The third time, Pope Francis walked to the edge of the popemobile closest to me. He reached for the zucchetto and took it, but the driver kept driving.

“So, the Pope made the driver stop, and he turned around. He took the zucchetto off of his head and placed it on the one that I gave him as if to compare them. Then, he handed it to the bodyguard to hand to me. He turned around, looked at me, and smiled. It was surreal. My eyes were full of tears because he stopped just for me.”

Gibson returned the zucchetto to the woman he was helping. She indicated it would be donated to a hospice organization in Florida.

“Though I did not keep the zucchetto, it was just special to know that I helped a lady bring a piece of the Vicar of Christ to the states,” he said.

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