Neighbors and friends describe benedict XVI as humble, delightful, collects "Cat plates."
catholicnews ^| Benedicta Cipolla
ROME (CNS) -- When Pope Benedict XVI was elected, Vatican watchers thought they knew the German theologian inside and out.
After all, he brought with him a 24-year-long paper trail as head of the Vatican's doctrinal congregation, served as one of Pope John Paul II's closest advisers and wrote more than 60 books.
But since his April 19 election, tidbits have begun trickling out from those who came to know Pope Benedict the man, as opposed to the theologian.
"I like him more than Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II) -- maybe that's because I knew him," said Carla, who preferred not to give her last name, saying she had been inundated with requests from reporters hungry for details.
As co-owner of a fruit and vegetable shop in Borgo Pio, the tiny Rome neighborhood just east of the Vatican where then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger lived before moving to the Apostolic Palace, Carla saw the future pope pass by nearly every day on his afternoon walk.
"This pope is more intelligent, where the other was more instinctive; he drew forth passion. This one is more rational -- but he is delightful. The fact that he's timid endeared him to all of us," she said as she trimmed endive and served bananas to a customer.
Angelo Mosca runs an electrical supply shop in the "Borgo," the shorthand that longtime residents use to refer to the area, filled with apartment buildings dating back to the 17th century and small, family-run stores, cafes and restaurants.
"Cardinal Ratzinger used to come to buy light bulbs and batteries, or ask for a minor repair, and I went to his house many times to fix something or other," said Mosca. "He is an exceptional person, with an indescribable humility."
About five years ago Mosca, on one of his repair visits to the then-cardinal's fourth-floor apartment, brought along some documentation regarding miracles by a monk who worked with Padre Pio da Pietralcina.
"He listened to me with the greatest kindness. The professor was listening to his student as if the student was the professor," said Mosca.