Pope Francis celebrates Mass in Palermo, Italy, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. Pope Francis is paying tribute in Sicily to a priest who worked to keep youths away from the Mafia and was slain by mobsters. Francis has flown to the Mediterranean island on the 25th anniversary of the assassination in Palermo of the Rev. Giuseppe "Pino" Puglisi, who has been declared a martyr by the Vatican. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Pope gives those in square a gift, jokes: 'don't pay for it'

September 16, 2018 - 4:26 am

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis had a surprise for the 35,000 people in St. Peter's Square — tiny crucifixes.

Speaking to pilgrims, tourists and Romans on Sunday, Francis quipped that that because it's a gift, "if someone says you must pay for it, he's being shrewd" and there's nothing to pay. Employing a familiar Italian gesture signaling shrewdness, Francis jokingly put a finger under an eye.

Those distributing the 40,000 crucifixes included the pope's official almsgiver, Polish Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, as well as nuns, refugees and some of Rome's homeless and poor. Francis treated the 300 volunteers handing out the papal gifts to a sandwich after they were done.

Francis told the crowd that the crucifix is "the sign of God's love."